Being a fan of anime has never been more popular than it is right now. Those days of shelling out $50 for a VHS tape containing three episodes of your favorite show are long gone. The rise of streaming services combined with the growing popularity of anime has created a golden age for fans who want to see both new and older episodes of the anime they love like, Metamorphosis Anime.
Consequently, we have arrived at this list. The fact that we can watch all our favorite episodes has made us think about the best anime characters of all time. These characters range from our all-time favorites to the classics that helped mold anime into what it is today.
Before we get to our list, I’d like to review some ground principles we followed to arrive at this conclusion. Each character was chosen because of their enduring influence, their place in the anthology of anime and, of course, the amount of adoration they have garnered from us here at IGN.
One of the most challenging things we’ve faced was narrowing the list down to just 10, but this is the kind of sacrifice we’re willing to make for our readers (plenty of favorites just missed this list, from Shotaro Kaneda to Char Aznable to Alucard).
For us to commemorate the very best of anime, our team of industry professionals has pooled their knowledge and made some difficult decisions. Continue reading, or use the arrow keys to navigate the slideshow to find out who we think are the Top 10 anime characters of all time.
The Top 10 Most fantastic Characters to Ever Appear in an Anime Series.
10. Himura Kenshin (Rurouni Kenshin)
Kenshin’s distinctive quality to the anime world was that he was a killer who wouldn’t kill anymore, making him the possible prototype for other characters on this list, like Vash. After years of being a hired sword and killing numerous enemies, he ends his bloody career. Unfortunately, his promise is constantly tested by the less moral citizens who threaten the safety of his country.
Kenshin represented a welcome departure from the typical samurai stories of the day. Because of his feminine demeanor, he was frequently misidentified as a woman by the uninitiated. Additionally, he was one of the most respectful and patient characters in anime canon, always putting the needs of others before his own.
He seems like an amiable guy who might work in education or the floral industry, not a combat hero seeking penance for decades of slaughter. But woe to those who persist in pushing his buttons; beneath that calm demeanor lurks a fierce beast.
To the extent that Kenshin’s hand is forced, he reverts to the ways of behavior that make him the most feared swordsman in the land. Even though Kenshin’s occasional errors in judgment make him a total badass and lay the stage for some of the greatest animated sword battles ever, he always reverts to his pleasant self as soon as the threat has passed. But in his private moments of reflection, he is paralyzed by the terror that he would forever revert to his old nature and become a manslayer once more.
9. Shinji Ikari (Evangelion)
Heroes are generally portrayed as idealized versions of ourselves: strong, intelligent, attractive, unselfish and flawed just enough to be believable.
Shinji, however, was not the kind of person we aspired to be like. In its place, he gave us an unfiltered glimpse of ourselves. He’s reviled because people see him be a coward, a wimp, a creep, and a hopeless case. But what teenager wouldn’t be if they were put through what he has at age 14? By not providing a shallow, vicarious power dream like so many other anime, he presents a challenge to the audience. He’s pitiful, sure, but that’s what elevates him to the level of a masterpiece.
Hideaki Anno, the show’s creator and director, suffered from clinical depression during the production of the Evangelion series but, true to form as an artist, channeled his feelings of hopelessness and despair into the show. To some extent, he lives on in each of those personalities, representing his worst qualities.
Indeed, Shinji is the best embodiment of his inner state. The youngster Shinji, who must stop the gigantic demons that threaten his world, gives us a glimpse inside the mind of the director as he struggles to overcome his problems. People who are depressed learn to detest themselves and see themselves reflected in Shinji.
He is not a portal to an alternative reality. The legacy of Shinji is that he was probably the most emotionally true-to-life character in anime history, which is not to say that escapism in fantasy has no place in the medium.
8. Sailor Moon (Usagi)
Many American children’s introduction to anime began with Sailor Moon and her influence has persisted to this day. Sailor Moon (or Usagi, in her non-magical form) has become one of the most recognized anime characters of all time, perhaps due to her instantly recognizable attire and memorable tagline, “In the name of the Moon, I’ll punish you!” She can make you laugh, make you think and make you feel like you can relate to her.
The unassuming young heroine’s enduring popularity may be attributable, in part, to the fact that she enjoys munching on snacks and dozing off just as much as she does cosmic kicking butt. Naoko Takeuchi, the show’s creator, also deserves credit for designing some of the most exciting and active characters in animation history, Sailor Moon. Click For your more fav anime Chainsaw Man Anime.
7. Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z)
Since his Google Glass informed him that Goku’s power level was Over 9,000, this prince of the Saiyans has been relegated to second fiddle status. Vegeta was the character through whom creator Akira Toriyama most frequently expressed his original ideas and concepts. While Goku’s journey as the protagonist and moral compass was relatively uncomplicated, Vegeta’s was more circuitous and winding.
At the outset of his trip, he was the prototypical villain, but he eventually became a cautious friend, a frenemy, and a doting dad. However, he could not wholly eradicate his bad habits overnight and relapses did occur. At the core of his evil doings was a crippling sense of inadequacy; he was the prince of the Saiyans and yet Goku always seemed to steal the spotlight. Years went by before his ego could handle it and then he reached a self-awareness when he recognized he didn’t have to let that setback define him.
6. Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)
Spike Spiegel is the result of mixing Bruce Lee’s kung fu with some Lupin III, a lot of film noir and a pinch of cool. Spike was the product of synthesis and like all great works, it was more than the sum of its parts. Spike was the driving force behind the action of Cowboy Bebop, a show that drew from a wide variety of cultural traditions.
The English dub of the series, in which Steve Blum voiced Spike, catapulted his career to new heights, with many fans arguing that Blum’s portrayal of Spike’s slick, effortless cool was superior to the original Japanese version. Spike proved to be a multifaceted protagonist, able to easily steal from unsuspecting victims, fix his spaceship, solve mysteries, take on formidable opponents, and even offer some philosophical reflections.
Spike’s background as a criminal and a hopeless romantic made him fascinating. His love for the tragic loss of Julia serves as a constant reminder of what the program is about and what meant most to Spike. Spike’s last moments in Cowboy Bebop are unparalleled in the annals of anime greatness.
5. Goku (Dragon Ball)
Goku was an original character designed for a shonen anime, even if he has since come to represent the genre’s standard protagonist. When Goku, a courageous but small child, first appeared in Dragon Ball, it was the norm for male protagonists to have exaggerated muscle heads (which Goku ironically turned into in adulthood). And speaking of unexpected twists, Goku genuinely matured at a time when protagonists seldom, if ever, did so.
Goku became a household name because of Dragon Ball Z. While Goku isn’t always the fan favorite, he is the series’ backbone and why Dragon Ball Z exists. His bravery, fortitude and loyalty make him an ideal protagonist for a children’s show with specific themes. While he may not be the most nuanced anime character, he serves his purpose admirably.
The complexity of Goku isn’t the reason for his high ranking; instead, it’s his undeniable impact. In many respects, he was a protagonist who went against the grain of the prevailing narratives of his era and set the tone for decades to come in shonen manga and anime. Many manga and anime creators, including those responsible for Naruto, One Piece, and many others, have stated publicly that Goku inspired them.
4. Johan (Monster)
Johan, a serial killer who would be at home in any major motion picture drama, has been named the greatest villain in anime history. In Monster, we saw a guy transformed into something genuinely monstrous: a charming and wise psychopath whose only desire in life was to wipe out the rest of humanity. In addition to his murderous acts, he also turned others into psychopaths. In his childhood, he used stories to urge the other boys in his orphanage to kill all the staff — and each other.
The Death Note character Light Yagami is often compared to Johan, but the two couldn’t be more dissimilar. Light’s ego is his deadly (and genius) weakness, as it causes him to prioritize his happiness over anything else, including his desire to make a difference in the world. Johan, though, is not scared of dying.
Rather than being threatened by it, he finds it exciting. One of his defining characteristics is how he dares others to shoot him, a risk he is more than happy to take. When it comes to manipulation, Johan is a true expert. Johan relied only on his cunning and understanding of human nature, while Light had to turn to otherworldly powers. What makes him so terrifying is that he shows his victims’ true, ugly selves. Almost everything that made Monster’s tale so extraordinary can be traced back to Johan.
3. Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)
For many people of a particular age, Naruto is the very definition of anime. The story of the titular young ninja, who longs for the approval and love of his village, has been a fan favorite for years and has inspired a spin-off series. This is all Naruto’s doing, after all. The feisty ramen-obsessed orphan is a legendary personality in the world of anime.
A novice who stumbled at the outset, he persevered and eventually became a formidable ninja. His access to Kurama’s chakra, a mythical nine-tailed beast, boosts Naruto’s skills even further. Despite his familiarity with the formidable beast, Naruto nonetheless trained hard to become a legendary ninja, eventually becoming a legendary anime character.
2. Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist)
Edward Elric brought a new spin to the role of the modern shonen anime hero with his brash ambition, wicked intelligence and maturity beyond his years. He was not the bumbling everyman who was nonetheless loved and respected by all.
Intelligent, cunning, arrogant and diminutive best described this man. The fact that Edward is officially incapacitated due to a horrific event fuelled by love and hubris is maybe the boldest thing about him. Indeed, Edward was a complex and multifaceted figure. He had a sense of humor and was capable of making some hilarious impressions.
He conveyed the most heartbreaking sorrow even when faced with the most catastrophic situations. He might be the sweetest guy ever or he might be a complete badass. Most importantly, we witnessed Edward’s realization that he did not know nearly as much as he had assumed about the world.
1. Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece)
As of 2022, One Piece had the highest cumulative sales of any manga ever. It should be no surprise that the protagonist of such a seminal work and its equally important anime adaptation rank highest on our list.
Having One Piece as part of the FoxBox programming block introduced many children of the 2000s to the wonders of anime and made Luffy a household name. The teenage leader of the Straw Hat Pirates is a fierce combatant who hails from a family of revolutionaries and is easily recognizable by his signature straw hat, blue leggings, and red jacket.
His reckless bravery endears him to his friends and family but puts them in peril. But these are also what made him a successful, though unconventional, pirate. For these and many other reasons, Luffy is our top pick for the best anime character.
Stay tuned for more updates, Nog Magazine.
I’m Rose Will, and I’m excited to share my journey as a content writer and graphic designer at Nog Magazine. It’s a unique role that allows me to blend my love for words and visuals seamlessly.
At Nog, I wear two creative hats – one as a content writer and the other as a graphic designer. This dual role provides me with a dynamic and enriching work experience that keeps me engaged and inspired.