Type: Character Cliché
What made it popular: It has always been popular, since the dawn of humanity Kings and rulers wanted nothing more than to extend their power, to be immortal, to rule forever. Whether we are looking at the ancient Pharaohs who built great Pyramids for themselves in order to ascend to the stars and join the gods or the Chinese Emperors who searched for the Elixir of immortality, they are all the same.
Cliché Level: High
Where can you find it: Fate/Zero, Texhnolyze, Maria Holic, Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, Gate, Berserk, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure etc. Characters of this cliché most commonly play the role of the antagonist/villain, but playing the role of a love interest, comic relief and even the protagonist are also not rare.
Characters of this Cliché literally state or believe that they are god, this is the first and most defining feature of this cliché, but whether this statement or belief is taken seriously or played for comedic effect (like in Maria Holic) is another matter entirely. The cliché also diverges further based on whether it is blind arrogance/insanity (Kano) that causes them to say it, or if they actually have some validity to proclaim their godhood (Gilgamesh). There is a subcliché within this cliché called the “Kamidere”, which many incorrectly use to refer to the entire cliché, but that is obviously wrong as many characters are Kami but not Dere. The word dere would imply something kind of love in this situation, but many of these characters don’t love anything but themselves or their power, so it would be incorrect to refer to them in the same manner one would refer to a Yandere or a Deredere. Either way Kamidere themselves are a common heroine or love interest choice in visual novels and eroge, but almost never get “taken” in the anime series, they usually just make up members of the harem as the token Kamidere.
Many anime actually seem to be aware of this cliché and try to avert it, such as in Code Geass where the protagonist is very similar in situation to the character of Death Note. But unlike Light Yagami, Lelouch Vi Brittania never proclaims himself to be a God nor does he fall to arrogance like Light does. Instead as the story progresses on, Lelouch feels more and more conflicted and disgusted by his own actions, but carries through them because they are necessary and will lead to a better end in his opinion, eventually everyone else starts thinking that he has a God Complex, while in actuality Lelouch views himself as a Machiavellian Demon. Say what you want to say about Code Geass as there are plenty of bad things about it, but this was one of the things done right throughout the show.
Why it’s bad:
It is obviously a very common cliché, especially among battle-shounens. The main reason why its bad though is because it avoids proper characterization, like really you have this villain who does all this bad and questionable stuff and you need to justify and explain it somehow, making the character have a god complex is one of the easiest ways to do this. Because if one views themselves as God, then they also view themselves above the “mortals” especially in terms of morality, for if we go by the definition of Abrahamic Religions then God is morally perfect, and if the character in question views himself as such a god, then he will naturally also view whatever he does as the right thing, he can’t be convinced, argued or reasoned with for obvious reasons, this naturally leaves the only options as either fighting or running, which is kind of shallow and typical of fighting shounens (Pain in Naruto was different though as he was based on the Shinto/Buddhist perception of God instead of the Christian one, which is why Naruto could defeat him by talking him out of his plan). But naturally it isn’t only shallow shounens that make use of this cliché, it appears in seinen anime all the same. Just take Texhnolyze for example, why did the blue-haired freak Kano did what he did? Because he thought he was god, was raised as such and nobody ever bothered to correct him, so he did what he believed to be best for the humans living in the underground city of Lux. I would actually say that if this cliché appears in a Seinen anime it is actually far worse a sin than in a shounen anime, as shounens rarely take their characterization seriously to begin with.
If the character is not yet a God and is a villain then they usually have the motivation or ambition to transcend to godhood, it is their goal and greatest wish (See Aizen from Bleach and Cars from Jojo). But this is also bad because most of the time it is a predictable subcliché that these characters will inevitably reach their godhood due to the events of the story, yet they will still be defeated by the protagonist in the end. Meaning they weren’t much of a God in the first place. Their goals itself is Eternity, they rarely make plans for what happens after that, beyond “Rule the World, Reshape everything as I wish.” type of cliché, making them philosophically uninteresting.