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The opposite of Adaptational Villainy. Some adaptations make a character Take a Level in Jerkass, this is the reverse.

A character is villainous or just not very nice in their original medium. When the time comes for the adaptation, however, things are altered. Possibly many scenes where they Kick the Dog are removed. Perhaps they are a Composite Character with someone who was nice in the original. Possibly, the original suffers from Values Dissonance and so the character is portrayed more sympathetically to match the values of a modern audience. Maybe a Generic Doomsday Villain has a motive in the adaptation and comes across as an Anti-Villain or a Jerkass Woobie.

Another common way is to expand the character's backstory, giving them Hidden Depths and Character Development.

Anime

  • Kazuya Mishima from Tekken was a Villain Protagonist in the first game, the Big Bad in the second one, and a major antagonist (sometimes the Big Bad, at others not) in the following ones. In Tekken the Motion Picture, he's an extremely angry Anti-Hero who struggles constantly with his hatred of his Archnemesis Dad Heihachi and the devil he made a deal with, and has The Heroine Jun Kazama trying to be his Morality Pet.
  • In the Blood Plus manga, Diva was still a Psychopathic Womanchild, but less prone to sadism. And she did NOT rape and kill Riku like in the TV series.
  • The first Fullmetal Alchemist anime made Lust from the Homunculi more thoughtful, and gives her a desire to actually become human.
  • Precia Testarossa from the Nanoha franchise is made quite more sympathetic outside the original TV series (i.e the Nanoha film shows her tragic past and has her regretting her abuse of Fate right before dying).
  • Several characters that are quite dark in the Pokémon games from Generations IV-VII are given better edges and sides, most noticeably Lusamine from Sun and Moon, in the anime. However, others, like Cyrus, are made even worse or largely ignored.
  • The first Sailor Moon anime does this for nearly all of the villains. The most noticeable example is Nephrite, who tries to use Usagi's Muggle Best Friend Naru as his Unwitting Pawn but ends up developing genuine affection for her, much to his own shock, and ultimately sacrifices his life for her; in the manga and in Crystal, he simply was defeated by Makoto/Jupiter not long after his arrival.
  • In Danganronpa: The Animation, Byakuya Togami is still a callous jerk who doesn't think much of cooperation, as he was in the visual novel. In the anime, however, he doesn't openly profess that he plans to eventually murder someone and get away with it. He also has more pragmatic reasons for tampering with the crime scene of Chihiro's murder, stating it to be a test of his classmates' abilities and a way to both catch the real killer off-guard and expose the real identity of Genocide Jill, whereas in the game, he did it partly for his own twisted amusement and partly to find out which of his classmates would be the biggest threat to him when he decides to become the blackened.
    • Similarly, in the game, Celestia Ludenberg proudly declares that she has a complete Lack of Empathy when asked why she murdered both Hifumi and Kiyotaka in such a cold-blooded fashion. This is omitted from the anime, and while her selfish motive remains unchanged and she thus remains the least sympathetic culprit by far (assuming that motive wasn't another one of her lies), it does make her a bit more human.
      • The manga actually explores her past and motives more than the game or anime did, which makes her far more sympathetic.
      • At least one manga of the series makes Leon Kuwata's killing of Sayaka an accident, whereas the source material implies it was done out of spite from her trying to attack him, and every adaptation, as well as future games in the series, make her Death Equals Redemption clearer.
      • Due to excluding most Free-Time Events, the scene where Yasuhiro Hagakure tries to sell Makoto's organs to the Yakuza is cut entirely.
        • The End of Hope's Peak Academy presents characters such as Hiyoko Saionji in a better light than their game selves were.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • While Goku in the original Dragon Ball manga is anything but a villain in the original Japanese version, the English dub tends to downplay his less noble aspects while strengthening his heroic side. Interestingly, Akira Toriyama revealed in a Daizenshuu magazine interview that this was also a difference between his conception of the character in print versus the television version; Toriyama described "his" Goku as having never really grown up much, so he's frequently innocent to the point of ignorance, especially having a poor sense of complex personal relationships. He's also selfish in his desires to fight, only dealing with evil that directly challenges him rather than being a "proper" proactive hero. This was such a common observation among fans (and critics) that Dragon Ball Super explicitly points it out several times, including by Goku himself.
      • On a similar note, this trope is zigzagged regarding the Super manga and the Super anime (which is more of a Chicken or Egg riddle regarding which came first) on Goku's characterization. On the one hand, the anime makes him a tad bit nicer than the manga (case in point, when Gohan reveals that he can't participate in the Universe 6 tournament due to prior commitments regarding a lecture at a college, Goku, while saddened, is nonetheless understanding of the situation (and even promises Gohan that he'll get to fight in the next tournament) in the anime, while in the manga, Goku straight-up called Gohan a "piece of shit"). On the other hand, the manga also at times makes Goku a tad bit more competent than in the anime (case in point, the anime has Goku completely forget about grabbing the Mafuba seal, which blows the other Z-Fighters' chances of sealing away Future Zamasu and ultimately leads to the destruction of Future Trunks' entire timeline, while in the manga, Goku did attempt to make sure that he brought the seal with him. Unfortunately, it was later revealed he ended up grabbing Master Roshi's porn coupon by mistake, thus resulting in Future Zamasu escaping anyway).
    • A couple of minor examples from the original series;
    • General Blue, or more accurately, Lieutenant Blue, gets this in the Dragon Ball movie Mystical Adventure. In the movie, he's depicted as technically being on the heroes' side (even if they never directly interact) and loyal to Emperor Chiaotzu, even going as far as to locate Chiaotzu to warn him that Tao Pai Pai abducted the latter's wife in an coup attempt, also getting killed in the process by Tao. In the manga, he was loyal to the Red Ribbon Army and depicted as Ax Crazy and ruthless, and his being killed by Tao was due to a You Have Failed Me regarding retrieving the Dragon Balls themselves.
      • Speaking of Blue, he also gets a bit of this in the English dub as a result of being made more Laughably Evil than a quasi-Knight of Cerebus. His more petty treatment of his men was extremely downplayed in the dub (case in point, he rationalizes his execution of a soldier for nosepicking as being due to it causing needless delays towards finding the Dragon Balls. Originally, he executed him purely because he nosepicked in his presence regardless of whether it impacted their finding the Dragon Balls at all. Similarly, he merely acknowledges Silver and White's defeat and implies he's actually looking forward to a challenge with Goku as a result, while in the Japanese version and the manga, he up and out disses them beyond the grave for losing to a kid). His misogyny towards Bulma is also toned down in the English dub, to the extent that he admits he did initially consider sparing Bulma after dealing with Krillin, and only decided to kill her after her crass attempts at flirting with him, while in the Japanese version, he makes it very clear he intends to fully kill her from the start, and do much worse to her before doing so. Lastly, his interaction with Obotchaman has him mistake him for his younger brother Samuel, with it being implied that he joined the Red Ribbon Army to find him and bring him home due to going missing in the dub. In the Japanese anime, he up and out lusted after him.
    • In Dragon Ball Z: Broly, The Legendary Super Saiyan and its sequels, Broly is a violent, sadistic sociopath with minimal redeemable characteristics, albeit with something of an excuse for his behavior by nearly being executed for his power level and narrowly surviving Planet Vegeta's destruction at the hands of Frieza. In Dragon Ball Super: Broly, Broly is a Tragic Villain who fights out of either blind loyalty to his abusive father or understandable anger over the death of said father. He even lives long enough to pull a Heel Face Turn! Somewhat justified in this case, as Broly in Super was merely exiled instead of being scheduled for execution, which did some favors to his sanity in the long run.
      • On that note, King Vegeta also gets a bit of this regarding his interaction with Broly. In the original movie, King Vegeta actually tried to have Broly executed when the latter was barely a day old, simply because he was paranoid about Broly's power level eclipsing his own. In the new movie, he instead simply has Broly banished to a backwater planet when he's a toddler, and his motives were more due to wanting to prevent Broly from upstaging his son than upstaging himself. He was also a tad bit more tolerant of Paragus's reaction, merely letting Paragus pursue his son's capsule without attempting to harm him, while in the original movie, he attempted to have Paragus himself executed simply for speaking out of line regarding his attempted execution of Broly.
    • Van Zant and Smitty (the two gunmen who were essentially responsible for the later, more destructive events of the Majin Buu Saga) get a bit of this in Dragon Ball Kai. In the initial anime adaptation and remastered versions, Van Zant and, to a lesser extent, Smitty were outright sociopathic individuals who were using Majin Buu's reign of terror as an excuse to kill as many people as they wished, went on a massive killing spree and eventually targeted Buu specifically so they could continue their killing spree unabated. In Kai, however, their killing spree was omitted outright, which left the impression that their motivation for targeting Majin Buu was merely because they wanted to stop Buu's reign of terror like the other heroes, though as evidenced by their coldly trying to kill Bee and later Mr. Satan, they were still unscrupulous overall.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In the original Stardust Crusaders manga (and later, the TV anime), "Nena" turns out to be a villainous Stand user who has killed and stolen the identity of a beautiful young Indian girl. In the OVA, Nena is an innocent young Indian girl who has been manipulated by Hol Horse and isn't a Stand user.
    • JoJolion is set in an alternate universe where several characters from previous series are radically reimagined. One of the most significant departures is Yoshikage Kira, the Big Bad of Diamond is Unbreakable. While JoJolion's Kira was aloof, rude and a major narcissist, he loved his mother and sister deeply, and decided to torment Ojiro Sasame after he witnessed the surfer using his Stand to almost drown a woman at the beach. A subsequent flashback also gave him a major Pet the Dog moment by showing that he once saved a young Yasuho's life by crushing the Rock Animal that had been trying to kill her. He also ultimately ended up sacrificing his own life to save Josefumi Kujo (this universe's version of Josuke Higashikata), a notion that would've seemed completely alien to the original Kira.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Yugi's Super-Powered Alter Ego, Yami Yugi, is generally played as a noble hero; in the original manga, especially early on, he's somewhere between a Sociopathic Hero and a barely-controllable Super-Powered Evil Side.
    • The manga version of Seto Kaiba is a cold-hearted individual who, during the Death Trials arc, is revealed to have acquired his Blue-Eyed White Dragons through less than honorable means and climbed the ladder at Kaiba Corp rapidly, which resulted in his adoptive father Gozaburo being Driven to Suicide; and treats Yugi and his friends with his utmost bitterness (he even outright says he's disgusted by their friendship) and flat-out tries to kill them. Even his younger brother Mokuba isn't safe from his abuse. In the anime, Kaiba initially displays the characteristics of his manga counterpart, but eventually softens by the time the Battle City arc roll around and even helps Yugi and his friends in key moments. His worst acts from the manga are also removed so, at worst, he only comes off as an arrogant, selfish Jerkass instead of a full-blown villain.
    • Shadi in the manga and first anime is a Manipulative Bastard who has absolutely zero problems using innocent people as his pawns. The version in the second anime has much more of a sense of honor and helps Yugi and his friends out more often. Not to mention that the two Millennium Items he had - the Key and the Scales - had the potential to be the most dangerous of them all. The Key allowed him to enter a person's mind and reconfigure the victim's personality any way he desired (making the victim his slave if he had to), while the Scales seemed to be a representation of the Scales of Maat, and could judge a sinner and not only kill him if his guilt was confirmed, but possibly condemn his soul (Indeed, it's likely a good thing he held onto both of them).
    • Maximillion J. Pegasus in the anime ends up becoming something of an ally to Yugi's group, aiding them in both the Doma arc and the Pyramid of Light film. In this case, it's not really because of any major personality change, but because he outlasts his manga counterpart, who never lived long enough to undergo any similar development before being killed by Yami Bakura.
    • Seto's younger brother Mokuba. Like Kaiba, his worst actions from the manga are removed, where his early appearances had him trying to kill Yugi and his friends. In the anime, he's only briefly antagonistic and quickly gets on better terms with the main cast than his brother.
  • Unicron Trilogy:
    • Starscream in Transformers Armada. Usually, Starscream is a self-serving bastard who can't give a damn about anyone else and wants to kill Megatron for selfish reasons. This Starscream wants to kill Megatron/Galvatron because the Decepticon leader's stubborn pride is killing Cybertron and is being taken advantage of by Unicron.
    • Alpha Q in Transformers Energon is based off the Quintessons who are normally an amoral race of arms traders and engineers who revel in raising hell across the galaxy, assuming they don't work for/were created by Unicron. Alpha Q, while he dabbled in Creepy Good and had some Ambiguously Evil moments, wanted to restore the planets Unicron had devoured.
    • Primus in Transformers Cybertron. His original Marvel Comics depiction was more the In Mysterious Ways/Above Good and Evil sort of cosmic entity, even if he was ultimately established as being Good All Along. This Primus is a much more warm and affectionate character, being firmly written as the God of Good, treating his creations as equals while the original saw them mainly as tools/toys that happened to be alive.
  • Damian gets this in the Electric Tale of Pikachu manga compared to the anime. In the anime, he deliberately left Charmander behind due to viewing it as weak and had no remorse even when learning Charmander would most likely die from the rain. In the manga, it's revealed that he had every intention of coming back for Charmander, and the reason why he didn't do so sooner was because he was hospitalized and in a coma for two weeks due to a shopping accident, and upon regaining consciousness went out of his way to try and find Charmander before having a tearful reunion with it in the hidden village.

Comic Books

  • Downplayed, played with and zig-zagged with Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious in Disney's new Star Wars canon. In the old Legends continuity, barring some very sporadic Pet the Dog moments, Sidious was a Hate Sink, missing no chance to psychologically abuse Darth Vader, went out of his way to make the armor feel like a prison built out of purposely shoddy cybernetics, and was violently opposed to the idea of ever being replaced as Emperor. As the Darth Vader comics relate, his canon self isn't quite so vile, sharing something of a Villainous Friendship with Vader (although that said, Aftermath: Empire's End did imply that he and Vader trusted each other even less than in Legends), and was alright with Vader usurping him by the Rule of Two, even trying to set up his granddaughter as his successor in The Rise of Skywalker (with a string attached). The zig-zagging comes from the fact that, for all the cruelty of his Legends self, even he didn't enact Operation: Cinder following the second Death Star which the canon Palpatine did primarily out of petty spite for the Empire failing him and speeding up its fracture so he could build up the First Order (and partly out of spite for the galaxy potentially outliving him at all). And even his Legends self could arguably have been considered a Well-Intentioned Extremist for setting up the galaxy to fight the Yuuzhan Vong but with Vong Exiled From Continuity, his canon self just did it all for his power. Overall, it seems that Canon!Palpatine is not quite as overtly and needlessly cruel as his Legends self, and has a few standards, but he's also a good deal more petty and spiteful.
  • Batman rogue Mr. Freeze was originally a very generic, pun-spouting villain in a green welder's suit. Then Paul Dini got ahold of the character and gave him a total overhaul for his appearance in Batman: The Animated Series, bestowing upon him his now-iconic name, look and Tragic Villain backstory. Taking note of this, the comics revamped Freeze completely to make him closer to Dini's interpretation.
  • In Teen Titans: Earth One, Terra is depicted as a normal (if slightly angsty) teenager before her powers awaken. Compare that with her pre-Flashpoint counterpart, who was a Manipulative Psycho for Hire.
  • King Sombra in IDW's My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic comics is played very sympathetically as a Tragic Villain at worst, accompanied by a Morality Pet, and is ultimately redeemed by The Power of Love, complete with a Happily Ever After-type ending. In stark contrast, the cartoon has consistently portrayed him as a Complete Monster who delights in making innocent people suffer.

Fan Fiction

Film - Animated

Film - Live Action

  • In Dr. Who and the Daleks, the title character is far more heroic a person than the First Doctor was when he first met the Daleks.
  • The Harry Potter films.
    • The most prominent example is Severus Snape. He had some good moments in the books, but he was also much more of a Jerkass in them, with his true allegiance not being revealed until Book 7. While he's still nasty in the films, his cruelty is massively toned down and he has several Pet the Dog moments. Notably, Movie!Snape was horrified that he'd put the Potters (though mainly Lily) in danger by revealing the prophecy to Voldemort, while his literary counterpart was eager at the idea of Comforting the Widow.
    • The Dursleys get a bit of this in The Chamber of Secrets, or at least Adaptational Softness, due to it being implied that they gave Harry Potter his own bedroom after the First Year rather than making him sleep in the cupboard. Originally, they transferred him to Dudley's Bedroom in the books before his first year, and even then, solely in an attempt to evade Harry's acceptance letter. In the film, however, they apparently did so out of the goodness of their heart (or what little goodness they actually had in there anyway).
    • Barty Crouch Sr. in The Goblet of Fire. In the novel it's stated that Crouch Sr. had no issue condemning his own son to Azkaban and could barely muster any feelings at all towards to his own flesh and blood. In the film, Crouch Sr. was horrified to learn that his son was a Death Eater and, in Dumbledore's words, was "destroyed" by having to send Crouch Jr. to prison.
    • Maybe for Dolores Umbridge? In the Order of the Phoenix novel, it's outright stated that Umbridge sent out the Dementors that nearly killed Harry and Dudley. No mention of this is made in the film version, suggesting that Umbridge could have been just a little bit better or she was just better at covering it up.
  • General Zod in Man of Steel is a Well-Intentioned Extremist and a Tragic Villain who is trying to save his functionally extinct species whereas he's usually depicted as a petty tyrant who is conquering Earth to spite the House of El. He's even horrified that he killed Jor-El.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • This incarnation of Tony Stark is much more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, downplaying or doing away with his comic counterpart's more morally questionable moments and worse qualities. While his comic counterpart kept producing weapons, for a time, after escaping captivity, this Tony Stark shut down arms manufacturing immediately after returning to the United States. It's especially clear in Captain America: Civil War. In Civil War, Tony didn't blink at his friends being locked up and pretty much became a tyrant. In the film, Tony supports the Super Registration Act due to being the Atoner (thanks to Ultron's actions) and is horrified that his former teammates were thrown in the Raft. To top it off, he pulls a Heroic Sacrifice that saves the universe.
    • Ultimate Marvel's version of Nick Fury was a horrible person. MCU Nick Fury is hardly a saint, but he doesn't take his manipulations to the same level as his comics counterpart. He even outright says that there are some lines he won't cross.
    • Maria Hill, like Iron Man, was a rather cruel figure in Civil War. While she still has some manipulative tendencies, her MCU incarnation is a far more heroic character. She's even shown having drinks with the Avengers, something that would likely give her comic self a heart attack.
    • Ultron is still a murderous sociopath who wants to Kill All Humans, but he's presented as a far more sympathetic character than his comic self ever was. Initially, before Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, his goal was to help humanity evolve into something stronger.
    • M'Baku in the comics is the Man-Ape, a recurring foe of T'Challa's. In Black Panther, he's a Worthy Opponent with whom T'Challa becomes Fire-Forged Friends, if not full on Blood Brothers.
    • Downplayed with Thanos. As Avengers: Endgame shows, he's still capable of being an Omnicidal Maniac but his motivation for mass murder is his desire to save the universe from overpopulation rather than a rather petty desire to impress Mistress Death. However, Comic!Thanos eventually became an Anti-Villain while this one dies convinced his genocidal actions were justified.
    • The Skrulls in Captain Marvel. The Kree-Skrull war is now Black and Gray Morality, with the Skrulls simply being refugees who want to live in peace, having done nothing to the Kree and never conquered any planets.
    • Loki. While his comic self was, at best, a morally ambiguous character, the Loki of the films starts out as an Anti-Villain and only gets better from there, dying by a heroic, if ultimately senseless, sacrifice in Avengers: Infinity War when he tries to kill Thanos. His self-titled series shows that he does have the potential to be a hero.
  • In Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, the siblings' parents and especially their mom did not abandon them in the woods to get rid of them. The mother was a benevolent witch with many enemies, so the two wanted to protect the kids via leaving them in the forest and fully intended to return for them. But they were killed before they could do so.
  • Most of the cast of the X-Men Cinematic Universe have their crueler or morally ambiguous moments cut out but the standout has to be Deadpool. He's still a Heroic Comedic Sociopath but he reserves his talents only for those who truly deserve it, genuinely loves Vanessa, and treats his side-cast as Vitriolic Best Buds. His comics self, while probably only an Anti-Villain at his worst, never had such standards.

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • Veronica Lodge was never an outright villain in the Archie Comics, or even other adaptations, but she had a lot of Spoiled Brat moments and could readily step into the role of the Alpha Bitch and/or grab the Jerkass Ball if the script called for it. In Riverdale, Veronica is a reformed bully who is arguably a more objectively heroic person than Betty.
  • Zig-zagged in the Amazon Prime adaptation of The Boys. While some supes, such as Homelander, blur the line between this and Adaptational Villainy[2], supes as a whole are much more willing to get involved and help out.
    • The most prominent example is without a doubt Black Noir, whose comic self was doing the aforementioned gaslighting via murder, rape and literally eating babies, who seems to have a soft spot for children and animals, even breaking into tears when he learnt about Compound V.

Theatre

  • The stageplay version of the original Danganronpa gives this to Hifumi and Celestia by virtue of cutting Chapter 3; instead they die refusing to vote for Sakura, and their victim, Kiyotaka Ishimaru died refusing to vote for Mondo.

Video Games

  • In the original Ratchet & Clank game, Ratchet was the Good Is Not Nice type of hero, if not a full-on Jerkass, while Quark was Evil All Along. In the 2016 reboot, thanks to the PlayStation 3 era, Ratchet is a much more clean-cut good guy and Quark is quick to learn that Evil Is Not a Toy and defects back to the heroes.
  • In IDW's comics, Nova Prime and Jhiaxus were racist supremacists who sought to create an empire of Cybertronians. In Transformers: Devastation, they were some of Cybertron's greatest heroes, as in inspiration for Optimus Prime level heroes, who were building The Republic and were victims of Unicron.
  • In Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, it’s shown that Alexander Ashford legitimately cared for his children, and while he did create the means to kill Alexia, it's solely because she was proving so sociopathic that she would end the world if not stopped. Not so much in the original game where he apparently only saw them as a science experiment, hence the reason for Alexia and Alfred using HIM as an experiment.
  • Sephiroth gets a bit of this in the Dissidia games. In his home series, he has complete distaste for Cloud and takes particular sadistic pleasure in tormenting him, and also had desires to become a god due to delusionally believing Jenova to be an Ancient. In the Dissidia games, the only thing intact was his rivalry with Cloud,[3] which, although he still is somewhat manipulative of him, he at the same time also acted more like a Stealth Mentor to Cloud as well, with it also being implied that Sephiroth himself ultimately might have desired to end the conflict of the Gods in a peaceful manner as well, and in NT, he's even the one to openly suggest an Enemy Mine against the Planesgorgers, and to Cloud, no less.
  • Damian from the Pokemon anime, or at the very least an expy of him in Vermillion City, gets a bit of this in Pokemon Yellow as well as Pokemon Eevee and Pikachu versions[4] In the anime, he clearly had little to no remorse for mistreating Charmander and leaving it to die in the rain (and worse, lying to it by letting it believe he'll return for it), and also was shown to be extremely neglectful of training Charmander due to only wanting strong Pokemon. In the games, while he was still considering releasing Charmander, it's implied he regretted not training it as well as he should, and made sure to attempt to find a trainer who can do a better job training it, and if spoken to actually attempts to inquire Charmander's status. The remake ups the trope by having him refuse to give Charmander to the player unless he has at least 50 Pokemon in their possession so he can be absolutely sure the player is actually up to the task.

Western Animation

  1. She does it out of both love for Makoto Naegi and to make Junko happy by feeling the despair of betrayal
  2. His heinous acts aren't as bad as in the comics, but no-one is gaslighting him and it's all of his own volition.
  3. In the original game, if the player tries to face Sephiroth as someone other than Cloud, he does attempt to re-enact his trying to become a god, but this got retconned in Dissidia 012, where Sephiroth, and by extension all of the Warriors of Chaos exempting Mateus and Garland [and even that was more due to a group effort composed of their main rivals rather than someone else doing it in their stead] were felled by their primary rivals.
  4. A Gen 1 game adaptation of the Pokemon anime and its remake, respectively
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