An anime is only as good as its protagonist, and luckily there are several great ones. Whether they be courageous, entertaining or relatable, each one of these main characters brings something special to their respective shows and I cannot imagine anime without them. Here are my top 10 anime protagonists of all time. Spoilers ahead!
10. Simon the Digger (Gurren Lagann)
Simon has one of the best arcs of any anime protagonist I’ve seen, growing from a timid young boy to a man with more willpower than any other being in the universe. His drill is the drill that pierced the heavens, but it was faith he had in himself that allowed him to accomplish so much. When he was first introduced into Gurren Lagann, it seemed like he was just a secondary character compared to his stronger, more confident brother, Kamina. Once Kamina was gone, Simon was left broken, believing his purpose to be gone. However, through the belief of others, Simon began to believe in himself. This inner strength allowed him to beat the Spiral King, bring humanity back to the surface, and eventually conquer the anti-spiral, securing true freedom for all living beings in the universe. Of everyone on this list, Simon has sacrificed the most of himself for his cause, but I am certain he regrets none of it, as he is the galaxy’s hero.
9. Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama (Mob Psycho 100)
Mob might be the most innocent and unassuming student at Salt Middle School, but he is also one of the most powerful psychics in the world. However, psychic powers are not everything for Mob, as he wishes to better himself without them to prove that he is more than just his powers. Mob has a hard time controlling his powers, and often bottles up his emotions inside until he is unable to contain them any longer. These bursts of emotion make Mob feel weak, despite the immense power he has. To improve his emotional stability, Mob seeks aid from others. Through his pursuits of self-improvement, Mob grows those around him, showing them that friendship conquers all. He may not be the most enthusiastic person on this list, but it is his compassion that allows so many of the enemies he faces to realize their own faults.
8. Hachiman Hikigaya (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
Hachiman Hikigaya may be the most oblivious man when it comes to the feelings of those around him, especially the women in his life. However, his willingness to solve situations to help the most amount of people he can shows how much he actually cares. He may be lacking in emotional capacity most of the time and starts My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU with a nihilistic look on the world, but through his friends, he realizes how much brighter the world actually is. Changing yourself to fit within the world around you can be inherently negative, but changing for those you care about is not. This lesson not only allows him to better understand the feelings of his friends, but his eventual lover, Yukino. The realization that they are similar in more than just personality allows him to make the next move, showing just how far he had grown. His struggles with admitting his own emotion and being vulnerable with those he cares about makes him one of the most grounded anime protagonists I’ve seen so far.
7. Joseph Joestar (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
The next thing you’ll say is that Joseph Joestar is the best JoJo! Well, there may be another JoJo higher on this list, but Joseph Joestar holds a special place in my heart. Joseph is easily the most mischievous and hilarious of all of JoJo’s protagonists. This man literally pulled a tommy gun out of his butt in a fight just because he could. Joseph has endless amounts of charisma and a strong grasp on battle strategy, allowing him to get out of nearly any situation by the hair of his chest. He oozes cool with his Hamon overdrive, which not even Ultimate Kars could stop. Well, he did kind of get launched into space by a volcano, which may be one of the greatest contrivances I’ve seen in anime, but I’d be joking if it was not one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Joseph is the master of trickery and quickly stole mine and everyone else’s hearts in Battle Tendency.
6. Izuku Midoriya (My Hero Academia)
Izuku Midoriya started out just like you and me, a powerless mortal who desired to become a superhero more than anything. Luckily, all he had to do was train for months and then eat a man’s hair to gain superpowers. In all seriousness, Midoriya has one of the most compelling hero’s journeys I’ve seen in anime, growing from a powerless nobody to one of the most courageous fledgling heroes at UA. He constantly throws himself at danger head first, wanting nothing more than to save as many lives as he can. If that means pummeling the villain into the dirt, then he’ll do just that. However, it is the moments when he is forced to stand his ground against an opponent who questions his ideals, such as Stain or Gentle Criminal, that Deku is at his best. As the face of My Hero Academia, Midoriya shows exactly what it means to be a hero.
5. Naofumi Iwatani (The Rising of the Shield Hero)
Naofumi’s life as an Isekai protagonist started off rockier than most, forced into a world that holds much prejudice for the legendary Shield Hero. Shunning himself from the rest of the world due to the lack of faith it seems to have in him, Naofumi wanders in the dark until he is brought back to the light by his right hand, Raphtalia. He may be far from perfect, but Naofumi’s more conflicted morality allows him to make hard choices, but still help those in need when able to. He may embrace the “Devil of the Shield” nickname given to him by the Church of the Three Heroes a little too heavily, but his altruism is always able to shine through, whether through his own willpower or the faith his party has in him. His rough exterior only makes the small moments of pure kindness he shows to his friends all the more endearing. His struggle to come to terms with the world he now finds himself in makes him one of the most interesting Isekai protagonists to appear in recent years.
4. Tohru Honda (Fruits Basket)
Tohru may be the sweetest sunflower to grace the Earth, but she uses her kindness as a front to hide the deep-rooted insecurities she harbors within due to the death of her mother. Her desires to help everyone as best as she can emotionally drains her, as it is just a way to hide the pain and loneliness she carries within herself. However, it is her ability to press forward and do everything she can for the people around her that shows how strong she is. She may not be physically strong, but she is emotionally. Tohru is always able to see the best in others, helping to break them out of the mental prison they are trapped within. Her desire to break the Sohma curse, not just to stay friends with Yuki, Kyo, Shigure and the rest of the Zodiac spirits, but to free them from the bonds that have been imposed on them for centuries, shows how far she is willing to go for those she loves. Tohru is easily the most kind and compassionate of all the characters that appear on this list.
3. Subaru Natsuki (Re:Zero)
Oh Subaru, how far you have come since you were first summoned to Lugnica. Once a coward that dreamed of nothing more than to be spared of his boring existence on Earth, Subaru has since grown into a hero in his own right. He may not be as strong as many of the other characters in Re:Zero, but his selfless nature always shines through. When Echidna offers her heart to Subaru, he turns it away as it would mean forgoing the care he holds for everyone in his life. He cannot sacrifice them for the sake of his own survival. Subaru always runs head first into the conflict presented to him, not because he is foolhardy, but because if he fails, he can just try again and again until he succeeds. The mental stress his ability to return by death gives him would make nearly any other person give up, but not Subaru. He wishes more than anything else for those around him to survive and live happy lives, but he still has a long ways to go before that desire extends to his own life.
2. Josuke Higashikata (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
The main protagonist of the fourth part of JoJo‘s Bizarre Adventure, Josuke Higashikata, is a delinquent with a heart of gold, often going out of his way to defend his friends and family from the various dangers surrounding the town of Morioh. His Stand, Crazy Diamond, perfectly represents his personality, being able to repair objects and heal others, but not himself. Josuke is filled with all of the charisma of his father, Joseph, but with a more altruistic side that makes him more endearing. The way Josuke interacts and molds the people around him shows just how much of a Joestar he is. Josuke is one of the most entertaining protagonists I’ve seen so far.
1. The Elric Brothers (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
Yes, it is kind of cheating to put two characters in the number one spot, but I cannot imagine either brother without the other. However, the Elrics together make for some of the most emotionally complex anime protagonists on this list. Upon trying to bring their mother back from the dead, Ed loses half of his limbs and Alphonse loses his entire body. Throughout their quest to regain their original bodies, the two make many friends, forcing them into choosing their own salvation or the salvation of others. It is through their constant self-sacrifice that their true personalities shine through. While Alphonse is more emotionally vulnerable, Ed is headstrong and hard-headed. Together, the two face a greater threat than they could ever imagine. However, it is through their compassion and deep rooted desire to save everyone and then get their original bodies back that allows them to triumph in the face of the very sins they have tried so hard to conquer.
Is there an anime protagonist that you love or relate to that didn’t make this list? Comment below!