Pure Is Not Good

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"The legend said the heart must be pure--it never said pure good."
Harm, Young Justice

Okay, so you've been told that in order to make the Phlebotinum work, or go to this particular place, or what have you, you have to be pure of heart. And then you get there, and there's the Big Bad. What?!? Turns out Pure Is Not Good.

In fact, it's perfectly possible to be Pure Evil.

This trope is solely for "pure of heart" where purity does not necessarily denote goodness. Any resemblance to being a trope about pure substances is... ahem... purely coincidental.

May make use of Virgin Power as a specific form of purity. See also Ambiguous Innocence, Light Is Not Good, Straight Edge Evil. Purity can be also be in a manner that doesn't conform to the good-evil axis; see Blue and Orange Morality. Contrast Incorruptible Pure Pureness.

Examples of Pure Is Not Good include:

Anime & Manga

  • In Dragonball Z, it's explained that Vegeta was able to obtain his Super Saiyan form, thought to require a "pure heart", by being pure in something other than goodness. By this time in the story he wasn't really "evil" any more, so it could be more like "pure determination" or "pure stubbornness". He could not accept his place in a world where a lowly soldier like Goku had obtained Super Saiyan form and a Prince like himself had not, so he defined his entire self purely on surpassing Goku.
    • One of the difficulties of fighting as a Super Saiyan is the sheer rage that overcomes the Saiyan. This is because their purity of heart is transformed into pure rage.
      • Even for Goku, Super Saiyan was his Super-Powered Evil Side (at first, anyway), which is why he never used the spirit bomb in this form except in a Non-Serial Movie (even then, he had to actually absorb it into his body so it wouldn't backfire on him when he transformed).
    • In the DBZ Video games, Cell is able to use the Spirit Bomb as his ultimate attack by being pure evil.
      • Incidentally, the Viz translated manga does indeed give this line as a heart of "pure evil".
    • Kid Buu (Yes, the absolutely insane destroyer of all worlds) is hinted to be pure of heart during the climax of the battle with Goku, since he was able to not only catch the Spirit Bomb and move it back, but was also quite capable of deflecting it back at Goku (During the Vegeta Saga, Goku stated that the Spirit Bomb could be deflected by those pure of heart, and thus could not hurt them.).
    • Broly probably fits this trope as well, given the above statement of requiring a pure heart to become a Super Saiyan. Pure insanity or hatred, perhaps?
  • In Bleach, Kaname Tosen says that Wonderweiss Margera likes being near him because pure creatures gravitate toward each other, but that he isn't sure where along the spectrum Margera's purity lies.
    • It might have something to do with Wonderweiss having been designed purely for one purpose: to nullify Yamamoto's Zanpakuto should he ever face Aizen.
  • The creator of Death Note says that Light became so evil because he was so pure in the first place.
    • Although that is a reference to pure good. Light is partially an analogue to Milton's Lucifer (check out the names) and you know what they say about how far angels fall.
    • Also, completely pure + intelligent = noticing others are not pure. Noticing others are less pure than you = cynicism + easy god complex. God complex + Death Note = trouble.
  • A Sailor Moon S episode has Minako depressed because the villains haven't tried to steal her pure heart crystal. In order to cheer her up Luna tells her that Usagi had her heart crystal stolen because of her pure love for Mamoru but still has plenty of bad traits like a pure love of eating.
  • Naruto: Itachi notes that Sasuke is "still pure, and can be colored by anything", and as a result the Big Bad had a fairly easy time manipulating him.
    • Further events indicate this purity likely stemmed from his ignorance of the darker goings-on of his village. The person to first introduce him to the reality could bend his perception of the conflict as they pleased.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho has Sensui, who once was extremely pure. If he wasn't so pure as a good guy, he couldn't have become so tainted as a villain. And out of his seven personalities, "Shinobu" (the original) remains very pure and innocent.
    • Sorta. It's more like Light Yagami's example above. Although for "Death Note", substitute death seeking.
  • Mao from Code Geass is as innocent as a child, and can also read people's minds. If he sees that they've done or thought anything bad, hen automatically assumes that they're bad people. And then he'll use what he knows about them to Mind Rape them. And his victims include the show's resident Messiah and (then) Knight in Shining Armor! It's explained because he received his mind-reading powers when he was only six, and so learned about the bad thoughts everyone gets at some point before he was old enough to understand that you can have bad thoughts or make mistakes and still be a perfectly decent person. To really drive the point home, his signature color is white!
  • Takato of Digimon Tamers is probably the purest and most innocent of all the "Goggleheads" in the series is also the quickest to flip extremes. Thankfully this only becomes a problem if you happened to have killed Leomon.
  • There's an angelic character in 666 Satan who is a genuine angel and doesn't have one iota of evil in his heart even when disemboweling his enemies he loves everything. He's on the "evil" side, and since the hero's weapon is only as powerful as the amount of fear of his enemy he's screwed.
  • The two antagonists in season 2 of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex are both different facets of this trope.
    • Gouda thinks of himself as a pure person who has only the best for everyone in mind, but is treacherous bastard who always dresses in black and never had his terribly disfigured face restored, so everyone who meets him will always remember him.
      • Gouda is kind of iffy example; he doesn't really even pretend to be on the side of good. He's a Nietzsche Wannabe who steers the society to morally rerpehensible acts because this is the "true will" of the people - but far more importantly, because it gives him the chance to show that he's smarter than anybody to the chosen few he thinks will be able to appreciate it.
    • Kuze has given up on all kind of idealism and turned to terrorism, but is completely devoted to helping the people suffering in the internment camps and sacrifices everything he has to improve their situation. He also had his cybernetic body custom build with white skin and hair, and a face so perfectly sculpted that it allows for almost no facial expressions or even mouth movement so to not distort it's unfading beauty. He also dresses completely in white when possible evoking at the same time an image of purity and death.
      • He gets rid of the white getup after quitting Individual Eleven and joining the Asian refugees, switching to more practical jeans and leather jacket. Characterwise, he is compared to Che Guevara, Malcom X and Cassius Clay (the 19th century abolitionist, not the 20th century boxer who changed his name to Muhammed Ali) - a person utterly convinced of the rightness of his cause and with ability to steer others to it with his massive charisma.
  • Shiori Takatsuki from Revolutionary Girl Utena takes this to new levels. "Innocently cruel", indeed.
  • In one episode of Zero Zero Nine One, 9-1 meets a young woman who she can only describe as "pure." Later, the woman tries to kill her when 9-1 tries to stop her from meeting up with enemy agents. It turns out that the girl is actually an android made mostly out of very pure gold that the enemy agents were trying to smuggle out of the country.
  • In Inuyasha, Naraku corrupts Hakushin, a Living Buddha who has become bitter over his Heroic Sacrifice, into protecting him by erecting a purifying barrier that destroys demons (except for Naraku's). Kikyo at times is also aligned against the protagonists, and uses her purifying priestess powers to thwart their efforts, since she's a Dark Magical Girl who wants to face Naraku all alone. Ironically (or meaningfully), Kikyou is the one who actually convinces Hakushin to stop serving Naraku, which finally allows him to stop hating people and pass on.
  • Code Breaker has the pure, innocent killer child-Sakura. Her pal Ogami shows her that killing is bad and hugging is good, although she kills him anyway (they get better).
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, the Big Bad insists that he has purified himself by giving his Seven Deadly Sins their own bodies in the form of homunculi. When he reabsorbs Greed into himself, he becomes Affably Evil, only to return to Complete Monster territory after creating a new Greed.
  • Kyouko Sakura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica describes her father like this. And she does so a while after he actually lost his mind after learning of Kyoko's Selfless Wish and went the Pater Familicide route, since his mind simply broke after that. Confirmed when the Drama CD shows us what kind of person Minister Sakura was before breaking himself and everyone else but Kyouko: a softspoken, kind Nice Guy.

Kyouko: "He was too honest. Too kind. Every morning reading the paper, the worries of the world brought him to tears(...)"

  • Lucy from Elfen Lied. Pure, sweet, kind... psychotic killer, her theme song Lilium is Ominous Latin Chanting for "pure as the lily".
    • In addition, Number 35 (Mariko) is a five year old girl, filled with childish innocence and playfulness. And Cruelty.
  • Mato Kuroi from Black★Rock Shooter is this. She happens to be a genuinely pure girl that has no sorrow or worry, and wants other people to be just like her. In similar case like Light above, she also realizes that people aren't as pure as her and wants to change that. That desire manifests into Black★Rock Shooter and, true to her nature, strives to help others. It's just said Otherself lives in a place where suffering and sorrow are the society, and her method of saving everyone is to kill everyone and everything. This makes Black★Rock Shooter extremely homicidal (as the Otherselves are Emotionless Girl race and only acting on their counterparts' behalf) by going around and killing her own kind in a giant massacre for years without batting an eyelash because Mato is ignorant of such world and would never thought that her ideology will result in something like that. When Mato finds out about this, she understandably freaks out.


  • Watchmen: Rorsarch has an incorruptible black-and-white world view, that, while admirable in a Crapsack World of Black and Grey Morality, causes him to do some pretty horrific things to people who fall under the "black" part of it. When he knows that the only pragmatic thing to do is to compromise his ideals, he chooses to die instead.
    • Well, accepts that he will be killed to protect The Plan, and tells the relevant pragmatist to do it already. Rather than compromising in order to stay alive, or out of the desire to salvage some use from the horror, the way the others have. Choosing to die to cover up the secret would just have been refusing to live with having compromised his principles, not refusing to compromise them. He would have lived if he could.
  • Jei-san of Usagi Yojimbo sees himself as the only person who can eliminate evil. Unfortunately, he is pure evil (with pure white eyes and a creepy voice to boot) and everyone is evil to him, except for his "innocent niece" Kyoko, who is so innocent (or severely traumatized) she isn't afraid of a pile of corpses, only happy that "Uncle is nearby!"
    • Interestingly, Kyoko seems to be the only one (not counting Jei himself or later Inazuma who can safely touch Jei's soul-sucking black blade. Word of God is that Kyoko was supposed to become Jei's new host, but the author felt uncomfortable about it so Inazuma and Jiro were created.

Film - Animated

  • In the movie Nine, the Fabrication Machine is powered by/contains pure intelligence. Unlike the nine ragdolls, it has no human soul, and therefore no conscience, no sense of right and wrong...Toward the end of the movie, The Scientist explains that it's because of this that the Fabrication Machine is so dangerous: containing only pure intelligence and no human soul, it could be all too easily corrupted.

Film - Live-Action

  • In Alien, the Xenomorph is said to be "the perfect organism", with "structural perfection" matched only by its hostility, a pure survivor "unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality."


  • In Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Solomon's lamp is supposed only be destroyable by the pure in heart. In this case, "Purity of Heart" seemed to mean "not acting out of selfish motives". Or maybe, (as the hero suspects) the Purity judge was on a coffee break.
  • In one of the Magic: The Gathering novels, it's mentioned that pure hearts can become pure evil.
  • The Pure Ones in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series of books are owl nazis (though not explicitly stated).
  • In Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality, God is so pure that he cannot comprehend human evil, and so spends all his time contemplating his own greatness. This turns out to be the whole point of the series. God, contemplating himself, isn't doing his job of promoting goodness (or doing anything else at all, for that matter) and needs to be replaced.
  • In Mark Twain's short novel The Mysterious Stranger, angels are pure - meaning that they have no knowledge of good or evil. The angel in the story causes many characters to suffer horribly, explaining that he can "do no evil" because he is innocent. The angel's name is Satan...
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray, early in the book, is described as having the "candor (purity) of youth".
  • There are several modern takes on Arthurian stories that play up Galahad's faith and purity to the point where he seems distant, inhuman, and utter unsympathetic.
  • In Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Green-Sky Trilogy, the Kindar race has done very well in purging negative emotions like anger and malice from society, to the point where 2 year olds squabbling over a toy is considered an embarrassing example of poor parenting, and "sorrow" is about as strong as it gets (it's also considered a borderline swear word). Unfortunately for the Kindar, this has led to a very broken Utopia, where the people are dying off.
  • The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. "I have observed that when I wore the semblance of Edward Hyde, none could come near to me at first without a visible misgiving of the flesh. This, as I take it, was because all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil."
  • Harry Potter : One could see Dolores Umbridge as indicative of this trope if only as a representative of the concept of purity... in a KKK kinda way.
    • And Purebloods in general. Not all pureblood wizards are bad, but those who feel the need to point out that they are pureblood most certainly are. After all, the very notion that those from all-wizarding families are "purer" in blood implies that Muggles and Muggle-born wizards are "dirty" (with the "Mudblood" slur making this clear).
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Eisenhorn novel Hereticus, Cherubael appears naked as pure light. The title character notes that its purity is "an abomination".
  • In Leo Frankowski's Conrad Stargard series, the title character reflects on his pastor's words that one with a pure heart has the strength of ten men. He realizes that it could be pure anything; pure love or pure hate, pure greed or even pure evil.
  • One of the most common Kurt Vonnegut quotes comes from the protagonist in Mother Night, and it could be this trope's page quote: "Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile!"
  • In His Dark Materials specifically the last installment The Amber Spyglass a priest is sent after our hapless heroes; this man's special because among his peers he is seen as inexplicably pure - he has spent a long time praying and being absolved so that he could 'make room' for the sin of committing murder.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Count Frollo are similar to Light Yagami in that they are so pure (they lived their whole lives in the cathedral) that when sin (in the form of Esmeralda) enters their lives, they have no idea how to deal with it. Frollo becomes obsessed with her yet hates her for giving him impure thoughts.

Live-Action TV


The Judge: There's no humanity in him.
Angelus: I couldn't have said it better myself.

    • The demonic types that make the most of being pure are the Scourge (who want to exterminate both humanity and impure demons, though their own purity is dubious by other canon) and the Old Ones, the monstrous original demons.
    • Xander also attempts a love spell on Cordelia so he can dump her, and is told that the emotion has to be pure. He replies that he intends pure revenge. The spell works, although not the way he wants it to.
  • The Daleks from Doctor Who are, as a species, obsessed with genetic purity-and exterminating everything else.


  • One can safely assume, in real life or in media, that any Knight Templar of a religious type who isn't a total Hypocrite is an example of this. The exception is when their position is portrayed as correct.



I am pure, I am true / I am all over you / I am laugh, I am smile / I am the Earth defiled
I am the cosmic storms / I am the tiny worms / I am fear in the night / I am bringereth of light
Earth successfully erased


Myths & Religion

Tabletop Games

  • In any given game of Dungeons & Dragons, as the Trope Namer for the Character Alignment, there's Neutral Evil; not caring about law or chaos, not having any real compulsion for or against any one religion, the gods, devils, demons, monsters (and occasional player characters) that fall under this alignment are in it For the Evulz.
  • The Architects of the Flesh from the Feng Shui RPG seem to take this idea to heart in many ways. In their world intra-racial (within one's own race) relationships are socially unacceptable, their primary technology (arcanowave) is demoniacally imbued cybernetics and, when their program to enhance apes with cybernetic implants turned against them, they took up capturing monsters and replacing some of their innate abilities with arcanowave technologies (possibly to hide the fact that most of the human users had turned into monsters as well).
  • Exalted: The Primordials are so pure, they are the embodiment of their concept. So Malfeas is pure RRRAAAGGGEEE, She Who Lives In Her Name is pure Order, and the Ebon Dragon is pure Betrayal (let that last one sink in for a bit). This turned out to be their downfall, because they absolutely can't understand why anyone would think differently than how they think.
    • While the Primordials may not understand why people think differently, they do comprehend that people do think differently. In the mind of She Who Lives In Her Name, the Primordials' decision to allow free will in the world they created was a bad idea, especially since it got her and hers thrown into Hell. Should she ever be released, she fully intends to put that right.
    • A case where Pure is Good, but not necessarily for everyone: the golden flame of the Daystar (the sun) purifies all things less pure than itself, which would include Creation itself if it weren't being constantly being fed a buffer of Wyld energy from the Silver Chair (the moon).
  • The Chaos Gods of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 universes represent different emotions distilled to their purest form, spelling trouble for everyone.
  • Spirits in the New World of Darkness are purely about advancing and increasing their domain and don't understand human concepts of good and evil. A spirit of fire only knows to burn and can't care if the fuel is firewood or people. A spirit of love is only about increasing love, regardless of whether that takes expressions and forms that humans would find distasteful, unhealthy or outright immoral.

Video Games

  • The Protoss from StarCraft are a good example of this trope, but the Zerg seem to be an even better example. Both races were created by the enigmatic Xel'naga Precursors; the Protoss were created in pursuit of a "Purity of Form", and the Zerg in an attempt to create a "Purity of Essence".
  • In Star Fox Adventures, an Earthwalker tells Krystal that only the pure of heart can take the tests. Later, a Krazoa tells Fox that only the pure of heart can enter the shrines. So we take and pass the tests, and go to the last shrine, and... What the... Scales?!?
  • In Luminous Arc 2 Elicia, the Big Bad is actually The Messiah who saved many children life, but the grief that she cannot save everyone cause her to go in to darkside and tab in the forbidden magic.
  • In Fable II, there is both a Karma Meter for Good/Evil and Purity/Corruption. It is theoretically possible to be both Evil and Pure.
    • Evil and Pure characters will resemble vampires with pale skin and red eyes. Their character type is the Fanatic.
    • Specifically, townspeople will be afraid but attracted to you if you are evil/pure, and do fun things such as spout off a line about how 'you should just die', then immediately follow it up by asking you to marry them. In contrast, a good/corrupt character is liked by everyone, but has a harder time causing townsfolk to fall in love with them or take them seriously.
    • The meter for Purity/Corruption thereof could be seen as a sliding scale of Lawful/Chaotic at the same time.
  • Roa of Tsukihime was an incredibly pure person in life. Also a good person, from what we hear during Ciel's route. Unfortunately, this gave him absolutely no understanding of his emotions so, lacking understanding of his love towards Arcueid, he turned into a Big Bad whose purpose was to continually torment her because he didn't know how else to express said feelings.
  • In Fate stay night, Gilgamesh reveals that the Grail spilled on him in the last grail war. The Grail contains the incarnation of all human evils in the world, and its contents tend to hideously corrupt and/or dissolve whatever it touches—But it failed to affect him at all because he was so pure. His 'purity' is not due to sacred protection or innate goodness of the heart but merely because he's so purely self-centred.

Gilgamesh: "All the evils in the world"? Bring three times as much if you want to stain me!

  • Played for laughs in Disgaea, shortly after Jennifer meets "Prince" Laharl for the first time:

Jennifer: I believe you because your eyes are pure. I don't know if it's pure good or pure evil, though. (chuckle)

  • In Sengoku Rance, Natori eventually reveals to Rance that the reason he kept losing the Miko lottery (you get to have sex with a miko, nearly everyone wins) is because he has no negative emotions for them to absorb. No dishonesty, jealousy or hate. Yep, Rance is very open about his desire to have sex with absolutely anything female and cute whether they like it or not.
  • Vanitas from Kingdom Hearts is Ventus's darkness given form.
  • Weiss of Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus was created from a pure lifestream, with no traces of the tainted lifestream.
  • Wendy from Rule of Rose is the sweetest little girl that you could think of, and her love and devotion for Jennifer is absolute. Pity that she expects just as much in return, and won't accept tiniest compromises.
  • N in Pokémon Black and White, after being told his sad backstory by one of the "goddesses" at the end of the game, she even lampshades this. It is said that his innocence, purity and good will are what makes him dangerous in the wrong hands.
  • In What Did I Do to Deserve This My Lord, Pure is good, but it's no good for you. Monsters that are under a lot of stress may tend to give birth to "Pure" versions of monsters which are weaker and do not reproduce and are so nice that they're terrible at fighting the heroes. The third game also introduces holy water, which can purify your monsters into the lame versions.
  • Ishida Mitsunari from Sengoku Basara 3 is described as 'disconcertingly pure' during his brief cameo in the game's anime. In third installment, this also implied in Ieyasu's blue path. His personality in-game can charitably be described as 'focused' and 'uncompromising'.
  • Maiden Astraea from "Demon's Souls", her kindness is too pure that lead her to evil.
  • The Oriathian religion in Path of Exile has an obsession with purity that was initiated by Emeperor Voll of the Eternal Empire and uses this word quite often without quite explaining what it actually means in its context. The end result is a tyrannical theocratic government with an absolutely despicable legal system akin to Renaissance-era Europe's Inquisition.

Web Comics

  • Sluggy Freelance played around with this in the That Which Redeems arcs. The inhabitants of the Dimension of Lame are all incredibly innocent and pure, to the point of being annoying. But as a whole, most of them weren't exactly good. They were perfectly willing to let demons from the Dimension of Pain enslave them, and tried to hand Torg over to them multiple times on the flimsiest promises of lesser suffering from the demons.
    • And their Riff ended up being the sole demon in the world after victory, fitting due to his causing all of the problems by kidnapping Torgs from various dimensions after accidently blowing up his own.
  • In Ansem Retort Axel manages to achieve "Reverse Nirvana" because his heart is pure chaotic evil.
  • In The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred, there is a sword that gives third-degree burns to anyone not pure of heart. The Canon Sue and the Big Bad are the only people who can use it.
  • Pibgorn: A discharge of focused evil. . . so young, and yet. . . so pure
  • Though they're more Well Intentioned Extremists than anything, anytime the Kyorl'solenurn in Drowtales invoke the word "purity" it's generally a good idea to run since they're probably about to perform a "purge", IE kill a bunch of people (who may or may not deserve it, it varies).

Web Original

  • In Sailor Nothing, the Yamiko created from a person has a power and evil level proportional to their host's purity.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: To bend lightning, one must have no internal conflicts whether emotional or idealistic. Purity of focus is required. You can do that by being calm, cool and collected like the well-adjusted Iroh, being an emotionally repressed psychopath like Azula or being ruthless and supremely arrogant like Ozai. Anti-Hero Zuko, however, can't manage it because he's too conflicted and generally emotional.
  • Deconstructed in Young Justice: Harm became pure evil by murdering his own sister, the only person he ever loved, so he could wield the Sword of Beowulf, which only the pure of heart can draw. The Sword rejects him when he feels a shred of remorse after seeing his sister's ghost, becoming impure.

Real Life

  • Truth in Biology: Asexual reproduced offspring of any species are generally less adaptable than sexually produced offspring of the same species due to the latter's greater genetic diversity. Though this is of a practical application nature of "good" rather than a moral one...
  • In general, being overly sheltered in one's youth leads to lots of problems come adulthood, ranging from naivete to intolerance to even psychological disorders in the more extreme cases.
  • Evil regimes throughout history have committed atrocities in the name of purity of political creed, religion, etc.
  • Ethnic Cleansing. Usually done in the name of purity. Never good.