Initially, I intended it to merely be a Top 10 anime characters list – regardless of being heroes, anti-heroes or villains, like what I did with my top 10 comic book characters list. However, I decided to try something new, to make a respective 10 for protagonists and antagonists. Note: Though the main factor is the depiction of the characters in the anime, I also give some consideration to those parts of the character’s characterization and performance which have been omitted in the anime but are in the manga in my evaluation of the characters for the top 10 lists.
Let us start first with the protagonists… Making this list, I realized that I’m drawn to anime characters that are cool, smart, have swords, or/and have guns.
10.) TOKIYA MIKAGAMI (“Flame of Recca”)
Shinichiro Kudo a.k.a. Conan Edogawa has all the right to get this spot since he’s one of the greatest fictional detectives in my book. However, the ridiculous and unnecessary “turning into a child” thing about the character annoys me greatly. Also, I’ve already analyzed Kudo/Conan before in my top 10 fictional detectives list. So, I have to give this spot to the character that follows closely behind Kudo in my personal fave anime characters list; if Kudo is 10A, Tokiya Mikagami from “Flame of Recca” is 10B. So number 10 goes to Mikagami. Mikagami, or Dylan in the Filipino dub, possesses my most favorite Madogu (psychic or elemental weapons that powers most of the combatant characters in “Flame of Recca”), the Ensui – a sword handle that forms its blade by the use of water. Mikagami’s character is a perfect fit for Ensui. With the technique of Hyomon Ken, Mikagami is able to manipulate Ensui well, utilizing the water and ice abilities of the Madogu. Among the members of Team Hokage, Mikagami is definitely the smartest and most cold-blooded. In a fight, Mikagami is a calculative tactician and treats opponents equally, thus, he has no reservations on taking down a female opponent.
9.) VASH THE STAMPEDE (“Trigun”)
At face value, Vash has one of the coolest get-ups or appearances found in anime. Just one look at him and you can easily tell that he’s one kickass, badass dude. And the appearance is not at all deceiving. At the first episode, we learn how awesome he is when the fact that he’s a guy with a high bounty on his head was presented. And then we got acquainted with his superhuman agility, reflexes, and eyesight, which are combined with his superior gunslinging skills. More than that, the reason the anime is titled “trigun” is because Vash has three guns in his disposal: his revolver, a cybernetic left arm that turns to a machine gun, and his “Angel Arm” – his right arm, when activated by his revolver, turns into a powerful cannon that can level cities with a single blast.
8.) LEORIO PALADIKNIGHT (“Hunter X Hunter”)
Leorio has one of the coolest names I’ve ever encountered in fiction. Though he’s probably the weakest in spite of being the oldest among the four main characters of “Hunter X Hunter”, I still like him the most. Maybe because I’m a sucker for guys with sunglasses. Or maybe because he doesn’t balk or give up even when faced with overwhelming odds in battle (like when he boldly faced Hisoka, earning the murderer’s respect). He is also very loyal to his friends, and being the oldest, acts like a big brother to them. He has some skills in weapons and is a talented haggler.
7.) HIEI (“Yu Yu Hakushu”)
Yu Yu Hakushu or Ghost Fighter, as it was entitled when I first encountered it, is the first anime of its kind that I have watched. Hiei or Vincent (in the Filipino-dub) was my favorite character from that anime. His charm was probably having characteristics – black spirit power, monster background, etc. – that were more usual in a villain than a hero. But that clicked. When I first saw Vincent’s body covered with eyes, I found it cool and appealing of the character. Moreover, I really loved Vincent’s swordmanship. I would encounter plenty of “fast skilled swordsman”-type of anime characters, but Vincent was the first.
6.) ROROANA ZORO (“One Piece”)
Zoro is the unofficial first mate of the Straw Hat Pirates. It is presumed that Zoro is the second strongest among the Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy being the strongest. What makes him unique among swordsman characters is his ability to use three swords at once – with the third one being held by his mouth. That’s one totally badass dude.
5.) YOICHI HIRUMA (“Eyshield 21”)
Hiruma is the quarterback and leader of the Deimon Devil Bats. Though Kobayakawa Sena – the Eyeshield 21 – is the story’s main character and team MVP, it can’t be denied that Hiruma is the reason of the team’s success. He is the brains of the Devil Bats and the one who assembled such unique, diverse, and talented team. Though Hiruma is not exceptionally athletic, his main asset is his tactical and cunning mind. He loves using psychological warfare and running trick plays, and more often than not, his plans and manipulations work to the advantage of the team. He knows well how to analyze and evaluate the talents and abilities of both his teammates and opponents, thus, he knows what plans to draw up to both perfectly utilize the strengths of his teammates and to attempt to exploit the weaknesses of his opponents. During the last story arc, when Japan created an all-star team, Hiruma was the undisputed leader/mastermind/coach of the all-star team, having the freedom to run the plays and use the combination of players he wanted. Being able to operate like a chess player with the other players willing to be his chess pieces showed how much the other players acknowledge his genius.
4.) HATAKE KAKASHI (“Naruto”)
Kakashi has probably the richest arsenal of ninja techniques in the anime Naruto. Having a Sharingan eye (gifted by his late friend Obito to him), he was able to copy around one thousand techniques. He’s also an intelligent tactician (rivaled probably only by Shikamaru Nara and his father) and calm combatant. His personality is that of a cool and detach one, but still cheerful. But being versatile is not the only reason for me to like the character. What’s special about him is his character. Though he has a great reputation and plenty of talents as a ninja, he remains modest. Moreover, he highly gives importance to teamwork and loyalty to friends and teammates above anything else. Usually, a very talented or powerful anime character prefers (or is preferred by the creator or/and audience) to fight his opponents alone. But in Kakashi’s case, even though he has the qualities of the powerful/talented anime character stereotype, because of his value for teamwork, he makes us appreciate the idea that there is more glory and appeal in fighting opponents as a team.
3.) HIMURA KENSHIN (“Samurai X”)
Not only is he my most favorite samurai in fiction, but he’s my most favorite fictional character that wields a sword. For most of my childhood, Kenshin is my most favorite anime character. At that time, he was the deepest anime character I’ve ever encountered. And his convictions are very admirable. The way he fights is such a joy to watch, there’s a beautiful mix of grace and lethality in it. But he does it in a way without having to kill his opponents. After being known as a legendary and dangerous assassin “Hitokiri Battosai” during the Meiji Revolution, he grew weary of killing and found appreciation of life, thus, he vowed never to kill again. In his personal path for self-redemption, he now uses his skills to help those in need and fight for the weak that are oppressed by wicked people. With the use of a “reverse-edged” sword, Kenshin manages to fight utilizing his awesome sword skills without having to break his vow of non-killing.
2.) LELOUCH LAMPEROUGE a.k.a. ZERO (“Code Geass”)
The greatest anime series I’ve ever encountered (so far) is Code Geass. Lelouch Lamperouge, or Lelouch vi Brittania (his real name), is one of the most compelling fictional characters ever created. Donning a cape and a mask, Lelouch takes the identity of Zero. He’s just a mere teenager but he has such a genius tactical and manipulative mind that allows him to formulate mindblowing and brilliant plans and strategies and execute them efficiently. Not all his plans work, but he is able to make a comeback from his failures until he actually wins. Though Lelouch has shown some motivations for noble reasons, his main motivations remain selfish and vengeful (although, we might be able to say that he has redeemed himself in the end), making his noble reasons seem insincere and mere guises. He is very manipulative; and though he has a conscience, his desire for revenge is stronger than it, thus, he is ready to use anybody for his own purposes. Through his alter ego Zero, Lelouch has created the Black Knights to be his “chess pieces” for taking on the mighty Brittanian Empire. Dependent on Zero’s leadership, the Black Knights had successes and slowly but steadily grew in power. Lelouch also possesses a Geass which grants him the power of mind control, enhancing the extent of his manipulations.
1.) GENJO SANZO (“Gensomaden Saiyuki”)
When I wrote a list of my favorite fictional characters years ago, the “most fave anime/manga character” went to Genjyo Sanzo. Having encountered several animes and anime characters since then, Sanzo remained as number one to me. Gensomaden Saiyuki’s four main characters are the coolest foursome ever in fiction. There’s an overflowing amount of swag in them. And the best among them is the leader Sanzo. Genjyo is rational, indifferent, and cold (though quick-tempered when he’s annoyed by Goku and Gojyo), and, reflecting the general attitude of his group, has the confidence that all opponents and obstacles can be overcome no matter how difficult (even gods!). Possessing a revolver and the Maten Sutra, which neutralizes demons thoroughly, Sanzo is one mean, badass monk you don’t want to mess with.
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At the case of antagonists, the villains that appeal to me are a pretty diverse bunch. Common things among them are pretty small. Some are totally evil. Some are antagonists, but only because of the context of the story. Some have been able to aid the protagonists. Anti-hero-type antagonists and competent deep villains interest me. But I don’t like the type of villains that, though perfect as villains, are too disgusting already (like Koran Mori from “Flame of Recca”, especially after he bonded with the Tendo Jigoku) to be fascinating.
10.) KUREI MORI (“Flame of Recca”)
Kurei was introduced as the main bad guy, with his foster father Koran Mori, at the start of the story and was the prominent main villain during the first half of the story. Though Kurei would progress on to become more of an anti-hero later on, he still remained vengeful, dangerous, ruthless and callous. In fact, he’s only an ally to Recca in the sense that they now shared a common enemy (Koran Mori). But as Kurei promised, he would deal with Recca after he’s done with his foster father. Still, there always remain a respect and sense of brotherhood between Recca nad Kurei. I actually find Kurei’s flame more fascinating than Recca’s. Kurei’s takes the form of a phoenix, which is able to absorb souls and make them his flame as what he has done with his lover Kurenai and his ally Jisho. I like Kurei with a full mask on, since it makes him more sinister.
9.) FLEET ADMIRAL SAKAZUKI, formerly ADMIRAL AKAINU (“One Piece”)
Even when he was first introduced as an admiral, I found Akainu (I’m still not used with “Sakazuki”) to be the most ruthless and has the makings of a perfect main villain among the three Navy admirals (while Kuzan has the most potential of favoring Luffy and crew). Akainu’s Spartan disposition leads him to commit harsh acts like killing the fan favorite Portgas D. Ace and destroying a ship of refugees because of the small possibility that a target is hiding on board. Akainu is also the only one who was able to break Luffy’s spirit (after killing Ace), as well as giving Luffy an X-shaped scar on the chest. His volcanic power is a perfect fit for his character. Hands down, among all the One Piece antagonists, he’s the best.
8.) OROCHIMARU (“Naruto”)
Even if you don’t know a thing about Naruto, just one look at Orochimaru and one can see he’s the villain of the story. His appearance is first class villain material: pale skin, malicious snake eyes, and a dark dangerous smile. Even his hissy voice is perfect for a villain. And, moreover, his ninja techniques are evil, as he has such techniques like summoning snakes and manipulating the dead. He greatly lusts for personal power and doesn’t care whoever or whatever he needs to destroy to get it. He commits dastardly things with no hesitation to get what he wants which include but not limited to performing evil experiments on people (even children!), murder, slavery, and treachery. Personally, I find Orochimaru a more interesting villain than Tobi though the latter is filled with mystery and twists. Orochimaru has a straight-on, hard boiled pure evil in him.
7.) EVIL BUU/SUPER BUU/KID BUU ("Dragon Ball Z")
No doubt that the most powerful and most interesting villain in Dragon Ball Z is Super Buu. As the product of Evil Buu eating Good Buu (Majin Buu), Super Buu would go on causing great devastation – more than any other Dragon Ball villain before him has done – on the planet with his tremendous power. He is greatly empowered by his anger and destructive nature, and he’s very cunning as well, being able to find ways to turn the tide against his opponents when the fight is not going his way. He has a wide range of powers and abilities which includes different kinds of ki or energy attacks, manipulation and regeneration of his body due to his physical make-up, turning people into food, and absorption. With his ability to absorb people, by either turning them to food or by using a part of his gooey pink composition, he is able to grow stronger with each absorption. He was able to absorb Goten and Trunks (Gotenks), Piccolo, and Gohan during his run. Though Vegeta and Goku managed to free the absorbed ones from Super Buu, turning him to Kid Buu, he remained completely dangerous and powerful.
5.) & 6.) TOGORU BROTHERS ("Yu Yu Hakushu")
The 5th and 6th spots go to the Togoru Brothers. Who's 5th and who's 6th? Either way will do. Though they have different motivations and personalities, their notoriety is enhanced as a package. Both brothers have very interesting abilities. The Elder Togoru has total control of his body that he can manipulate and shape-shift, thus he can sharpen body parts, elongate, create a dummy of himself, regenerate, and even move internal organs around his body. The Younger Togoru can manipulate how much percentage of his power he will release, ranging from 0% to 120%; as percentage increases, his muscles thicken and enlarge and his appearance proportionately change to be more demon-like. Remember that Yu Yu Hakushu was the first anime that I had followed, and after having watched plenty of animes since then, the Togoru brothers charm as villains are rarely surpassed.
4.) GIN ICHIMARU ("Bleach")
“Bleach” has several solid villains. Ichigo and the other Shinigamis taking on Hallows and Arrancars are fun to see (yep, I don’t like the Bounts). Sosuke Aizen is an intriguing antagonist due to the character’s awesome 180 degrees turn from kindly and nice brotherly figure to being the ruthless and cunning main villain as a twist. But, still, in spite of that, I still find Gin Ichimaru a more fascinating character. To be fair, maybe indeed Aizen is the better villain objectively and I just really like the Ichimaru character so much. Nonetheless, I would still give this spot to Ichimaru (it’s my list after all. I can do what I want!). Prior to the revelation of Aizen faking his murder and actually being the manipulative mastermind behind the conspiracy, it was being suggested that Ichimaru was the traitor inside Gotei 13 and is going to be the main antagonist in the story. Aizen would eventually turn out to be the main villain and Gin merely a subordinate, but still, there is a nagging feeling in me that there could be something more to Gin. He’s such a rich and interesting character since he was introduced, because of the sense of mystery wrapped around the character. And then in Bleach’sbiggest twist (so far), it is revealed that Gin only joined Aizen so he can kill him. Yes, for years, Gin pretended to be Aizen’s ally and lackey so he can get his trust and learn his weakness. So when the perfect opportunity arises, he can have the pleasure of killing him. It was for the sake of avenging what Aizen did to the only person he cared for, Rangiku Matsumoto. It’s not completely revealed what Aized did though, but it was enough to make Gin Ichimaru vow revenge and formulate such elaborate plan to take down Aizen. Gin would fail in killing Aizen, but, still, what he did is a proof that he’s an awesome character. If that’s not a good enough reason for you, let me add the fact that his Shikai’s ability is to extend its blade like a boss.
3.) AGON KONGO ("Eyeshield 21")
In a story with a sport context, usually, antagonists are only “antagonists” in the sense of being competitors and opponents of the main character/s or main characters’ team – “antagonists” only because they play against the “protagonists”. In fact, the word “antagonist” seems to be too much to describe them since they are merely competing and not antagonizing. But, indeed, there are competitors who are jerks and dirty in their games, so having the word “antagonists” fits them. One such in “Eyeshield 21” is Agon Kongo. He’s not a dirty player, since he doesn’t need to be so because his talents are more than enough. But he is vicious, and delights in overwhelming and destroying his opponents. Agon is a genius, in which he finds it easy and natural to learn skills and be athletic. He possesses natural athleticism, speed, intelligence, and strength, and though he’s lazy and doesn’t train, his skills are still far better than those who train extensively (like his twin brother Unsui). He possesses an innate talent called “God’s impulse” which allows him to understand and learn difficult physical movements and activities in a short span of time. “God’s Impulse” also gave him a superhuman muscular memory and reaction time that allows him to move and react against opponents with great haste. Because of these natural talents that he possesses, Agon is extremely arrogant and has a strong superiority complex and treats everyone as mere “worthless trash”. However, this arrogance is not of overconfidence but just based on the fact that he’s actually superior. Nonetheless, after his team got defeated by the Deimon Devil Bats, Agon began training profusely everyday in his desire to beat them next time, which would be considered a progress with Agon’s attitude. Agon also started showing some signs of ability to care for a team (though, maybe, still selfish in motivation) and his teammates during his stint with the All-Japan team. At the end of the manga, Agon is showed to have joined Hiruma, Akaba, Yamato, and Taka in college to form a powerhouse team.
2.) SHISHIO MAKOTO ("Samurai X")
Shishio could be the most popular and most iconic villain from Samurai X. Being burned alive and surviving it, Shishio covered his entire body with bandages to hide his disfigured appearance, which gave him a badass mummy look. Shishio is a ruthless, coldblooded sociopath and believes that the weak only lives for the benefit of the strong. He is crafty, intelligent, and a very talented swordsman. However, he can only fight for a maximum of 25 minutes because of the danger of overheating due to having no sweat glands. He is shown to have the ability to neutralize his opponent’s abilities after seeing it in action. What makes him more badass than he already was is that though he failed in his attempt to take over the Japanese government, he seems to have continued his aspirations in the afterlife, by deciding to take over Hell (seriously, it was implied in the anime).
1.) HISOKA ("Hunter X Hunter")
Hisoka is a very fascinating character. His personality is that of a jester, cheerful killer. He’s very cruel, deceitful, and dramatic. He’s completely egocentric and would only do something if it interests him. He’s an extremely strong combatant who delights in killing. However, he obtains his greatest pleasure from fighting and killing powerful fighters. He has great instinct in judging somebody’s strength and potential. Therefore, when he perceives someone having the potential to be a powerful fighter someday, he would allow them to live even though he can easily kill them, and will wait until they reach their full strength to challenge them. He calls these potential targets as “unripe fruit” and such was the case with the four main protagonists of Hunter X Hunter. What I like most about Hisoka is his uniqueness from other villains. While typical villains have motivations of revenge or lust for power or “taking over the world”, Hisoka’s motivation is mainly based on his self-interest and lust for the thrill of fighting and killing (especially strong opponents).