Anime characters have an appealing quality that stretches beyond the limits of traditional storytelling. These figures possess the unique ability to invoke authentic emotions, inspire fans, and stir up heated debates. Whether it’s their charismatic personalities, unimaginable powers, or intricate backstories, the best anime characters leave an indelible mark on viewers everywhere.
From fearless fighters who overcome all obstacles to the complex anti-heroes we love to hate, these icons have become popular to the point of inspiring fashion choices, song lyrics, and our personalities. With tens of thousands of series to go through, restricting ourselves to the 10 best anime characters is no easy feat. Every fan has their favorites, but the ones on this list continue to have a lasting impact and are recognizable beyond their fandom circles. We will be selecting only one character per series. Dive in to see the most popular figures across this diverse medium.
Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon
‘Sailor Moon’ (1992)
Written and drawn by Naoko Takeuchi, Usagi Tsukino, aka Sailor Moon (currently voiced by Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh) quickly became a global phenomenon when she debuted in 1991. With multiple voice actors, including Tracey Moore, Terri Hawkes, Kae Araki, and Linda Ballantyne taking on this role, each version contributes to the enduring appeal of Sailor Moon.
Tsukino is an ordinary, clumsy teenage girl who can transform into the mighty warrior Sailor Moon to protect Earth from evil forces. This metamorphosis not only changes her physical prowess but also her confidence in herself. The series’ popularity is cemented as its transformation sequences have been referenced and homaged in various media forms. The character and her story continue to resonate with fans of all ages and backgrounds throughout the years.
‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ (2003)
Edward Elric (Romi Park/Vic Mignogna) is the determined and resilient protagonist of Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood by Hiromu Arakawa. Although only around 15-16 years old, Edward is extremely intelligent, which can be seen through his deep understanding of alchemy — the mystical science of equivalent exchange. In the series, Edward is on a quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone, an artifact that can restore his brother’s body, after a failed alchemical experiment. This tragic backstory is one of many reasons why viewers are drawn to Edward.
He is also skilled in hand-to-hand combat, using automail limbs (mechanical prosthetics) and alchemical abilities to stop his adversaries. With the principle of Equivalent Exchange, giving something of equal value to create something else, Edward can manipulate an object’s physical properties and turn them into different forms. Although Edward starts as a brash and stubborn individual, his experiences shape him to be a compassionate and selfless character who fights against corruption and injustice, while dealing with moral dilemmas.
There’s no way the mascot of the Pokémon franchise wouldn’t be making it on this list. Designed by Atsuko Nishida and Ken Sugimori, Pikachu (Ikue Ōtani) has garnered a massive level of popularity beyond just anime fans. The character’s appearance instantly catches the eye with its bright yellow fur, rosy cheeks, and lightning bolt-shaped tail. But don’t dismiss Pikachu for its adorable design; the Pokémon’s ability to generate powerful electric attacks from its tiny body is one of the many traits that enthusiasts enjoy about the character.
Pikachu’s loyalty to trainer Ash Ketchum (Rica Matsumoto/Sarah Natochenny) in Pokémon is an emotional journey to witness as the iconic duo initially partnered up in reluctance, but have experienced countless setbacks and triumphs together. Even if you’re not well-versed in the Pokémon franchise, you probably can name Pikachu at the very least. It’s difficult to think about anything Pokémon-related without Pikachu coming to mind.
‘Dragon Ball’ (1984)
The legendary protagonist of the Dragon Ball franchise from Akira Toriyama had to be included on this list. His popularity stems from a combination of his limitless power level, unyielding determination, and youthful energy. Goku (Masako Nozawa/Stephanie Nadolny/Sean Schemmel) is a part of the Saiyan race, who possesses superhuman strength, flight, and the ability to unleash energy attacks. But it’s his Super Saiyan transformations that make him a well-known character. Fans of the series would channel Goku by screaming like him to unlock their potential and try to shoot off a Kamehameha.
Despite his incredible abilities, adult Goku has a childlike innocence, almost to his detriment. He continually works towards becoming the strongest fighter in the universe, not for glory, but as a way to challenge himself. His might and purity are why he’s a symbol of heroism and inspiration for Dragon Ball fans.
‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba’ (2019)
Tanjiro Kamado (Natsuki Hanae/Zach Aguilar) from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba by Koyoharu Gotouge is a young boy who joins the Demon Slayer Corps after seeing most of his family slaughtered by a demon. His only remaining family member, Nezuko (Akari Kitō/Abby Trott), is turned into a demon herself as a result of this tragic event. Tanjiro’s strong sense of justice, determination, and compassion throughout his experiences are what draw viewers to him.
Despite the intense trauma he has faced since his family’s murder, Tanjiro refuses to let his anger lead him down a dark path. Instead, he focuses on finding a way to turn Nezuko back into a human. Even though she’s a demon and can’t verbally communicate with Tanjiro, he refuses to abandon her and risks his own life to protect her. His commitment to the Demon Slayer Corps is not driven by revenge but by a genuine hope to protect others from the suffering he went through.
Additionally, Tanjiro pushes himself to the limits as a fighter. He spent two years learning swordsmanship techniques, combat skills, and breathing forms before taking the final test to be a Demon Slayer. He has also grown emotionally throughout his journey as he gains wisdom from fellow Demon Slayer Corps members. Furthermore, he grows to understand that the demons he fights are all not inherently evil. Tanjiro’s kind nature and relatability are why fans adore this character.
Monkey D. Luffy
‘One Piece’ (1999)
As captain of the Straw Hat Pirates, Monkey D. Luffy (Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard) relentlessly pursues his dream of becoming the Pirate King by defying all odds and defeating enemies in his path. Since the beginning of One Piece in 1997 by Eiichiro Oda, Luffy has valued the importance of freedom by standing up against oppression. Despite living in a world of pirates filled with fantastical elements, this theme of fighting adversity rings true for the audience.
Although Luffy can be reckless and clumsy, Luffy’s sincerity and honesty are his most endearing qualities. His infectious charisma and constant smiling don’t hurt either. Additionally, his stretching and Devil Fruit powers show off visually stunning action scenes. With rubber-like movements, he has an unconventional fighting style that showcases his resourcefulness and strategic thinking. With these distinctive attributes and a compelling narrative arc, there’s no question why Luffy continues to be one of the best anime characters.
‘Hunter x Hunter’ (2011)
Despite not being the main protagonist of Yoshihiro Togashi‘s Hunter x Hunter, Killua Zoldyck (Mariya Ise/Cristina Valenzuela) is a fan favorite due to his deep character arc. He is born into a family of assassins, learning deadly instincts as a fighter, and is shown to be an emotionally detached and remorseless child. However, through his friendship with the main character, Gon Freecss (Megumi Han/Erica Mendez), Killua gradually evolves to be a compassionate friend and loyal ally.
Viewers feel strong emotions towards the heartwarming scenes between him and Gon, but it’s the dynamic between Killua and his family, especially his protective older brother, Illumi (Masaya Matsukaze/Chris Hackney), that adds substance to his development. Killua’s lightning-based powers, combined with his speed and analytical thinking, are exciting to see when he engages in impressive fight sequences, leaving the audience in awe.
With similarities to traditional underdog stories, creator Masashi Kishimoto gives Naruto Uzumaki (Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan) a relatable journey, a dynamic personality, and the inspiring notion to never give up on our dreams. Growing up, Naruto faces rejection from his village because a destructive beast was sealed within him when he was born, unbeknownst to him. Although he is a troublesome kid in Naruto, he is determined to overcome personal and societal obstacles to become the village’s leader and protector.
He is known for his energetic demeanor and undying loyalty. Naruto’s genuine care for others is consistent with everyone he meets, whether good or evil. His character arc from an impulsive, mischievous kid to a strong, capable leader contributes to his popularity — his jutsu techniques being the cherry on top.
With the chakra (life energy) of a Tailed Beast inside him, his strength, speed, and endurance are amplified. He has also mastered devastating techniques like the Rasengan and Rasenshuriken that leave foes in the dust. Throughout the franchise, Naruto unlocks transformations like Sage Mode, Six Paths Sage Mode, and Baryon Mode that give him access to near-godlike abilities that could be world-destroying in the wrong hands. Lastly, let’s not forget his iconic running style that many young viewers imitated.
‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ (2020)
Satoru Gojo (Yuichi Nakamura/Kaiji Tang) from Jujutsu Kaisen by Gege Akutami quickly became a fan-favorite anime character since the series debut. Satoru is a well-known Jujutsu Sorcerer and teacher at Tokyo Jujutsu High, referred to as “The Strongest” or the “Blindfolded Idiot.” His Limitless Cursed Technique and Six Eyes make him practically unstoppable in combat. With these abilities, he can create impenetrable barriers, immobilize enemies, predict movements, and attack with immense power and precision.
Along with Satoru’s incredible skills are his charismatic nature and witty personality. He often makes jokes or playful comments with his students, adding lighthearted moments to the series. But underneath his carefree exterior is a genuinely compassionate and protective person. He has put himself in dangerous situations to ensure the safety of others. Satoru wants the best for his students and will go to great lengths to guide and support them on their path.
‘Attack on Titan’ (2013)
Levi Ackerman (Hiroshi Kamiya/Matthew Mercer) is the strongest soldier in Hajuime Isayama‘s Attack on Titan. Watching him battle Titans — giant humanoids that eat humans and cause destruction — is awe-inspiring due to his unmatched combat skills, speed, and precision. Even in the most dire situations, he remains calm. His swordsmanship skills make him a force to be reckoned with, and a symbol of hope in this dystopian world.
Part of Levi’s appeal is his complicated personality. He is often very stoic but displays moments of vulnerability and introspection as each layer of his character is peeled back. The glimpses into his past provide insight into the traumatic experiences that have shaped the person he is during the series. Although he isn’t the main character of Attack on Titan, fans gravitate towards Levi because of his compelling backstory and strength as a fighter.
The Best Anime Characters Are the Ones That Leave an Impact
Even in these fantastical narratives, anime figures continue to captivate audiences worldwide with their unique abilities and heartfelt storylines. Whether it’s their unwavering determination or deeply layered personalities, these characters have become icons that go beyond the medium. While anime can be difficult for some viewers to immerse themselves in, at the root of these outlandish stories are characters with compelling backstories and relatable journeys of the self.
Who do you consider to be the best anime characters of all time? Share your thoughts on the Agents of Fandom socials, and be sure to follow us for all the latest entertainment news and reviews!