Monday, October 7, 2013

Top 5 Anime Protagonists

Top 5 Anime Protagonists
Written by ClayDragon

Much like an anime’s opening, the main protagonist is usually central to people’s decision as to whether or not to watch the show. An awesome hero will make the show more interesting and enjoyable, whereas a badly-written protagonist will end up being boring and unlikable. With this in mind, I’ve constructed a short list of my top 5 anime protagonists. For the purpose of this list, the word ‘protagonist’ refers to the main character of a series, and not necessarily their moral alignment.
Note: This was originally meant to be a top 10 list, but time constraints and poor planning on my part necessitated that the bottom 5 characters be cut from the list. For those interested, the original list can be seen at the bottom of the page.

"Your excuses displease me!"

5.)        Rintarou Okabe (Steins;Gate)

            Okabe:  "Prepare to face an opponent who will change your view of this game forever! I                                      surrender!"

*Insert maniacal laugh here*

Being a scientist is awesome. Being a self-professed ‘mad scientist’ is even better. A first-year college student, Rintarou Okabe is the leader of the ‘Future Gadget Laboratory’, a ragtag group who pretty much screw around with home appliances in the name of SCIENCE! He also calls himself HOUOUIN KYOUMA (emphasis on the capitals) and pretends to be an evil scientist working towards world domination. In actuality, he’s a caring, eccentric scientist who pretty much does everything for laughs. At the start of the story, an experiment involving a mobile phone and a microwave ends up granting him the ability to send text messages into the past. Of course, this being time travel, things soon start to go horribly, horribly wrong.

At the time of writing, I haven’t even finished Steins;Gate, and yet Rintarou is already a firm fixture on this list. He’s smart, funny and he’s quite possibly the most quotable anime character I’ve seen. At around halfway through the show, he ends up undergoing a lot of character development, and as a result ends up being more sombre and depressed, showing us another side to his personality. The best part about him though, is definitely his interactions with his fellow lab members. Even though he makes up nicknames for them and mocks them fairly relentlessly, it’s shown a number of times that he really cares for them, and shows us that not all mad scientists are evil.

4.)        Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

            Edward: "There’s no such thing as a painless lesson."

You. Heard. Nothing.

Sometimes, trying to subvert the natural order of things can be fun. Sometimes, it can be mentally and physically scarring. When Ed and his brother Al try to bring their dead mother back to life through the use of alchemy, Al ends up losing his entire body, and Ed loses an arm and a leg trying to place Al’s soul into a suit of armour. They decide to start searching for the Philosopher’s Stone – a mythical object that can give them their original bodies back. Along the way, they end up embroiled in a huge conspiracy that threatens the fate of the entire country. So, par for the course, really.

The best thing about Ed is how believable the author made him. He’s not insanely athletic, he isn’t without his flaws, and he can’t simply shrug off life-threatening injuries the way most Shōnen characters do. He’s also one of the few characters I’ve seen who exhibits a huge amount of growth, both physically (he goes from roughly 4’10” at the start to about 5’4” in the final battle) and in terms of character development. He’s funny, clever, and one of the most badass people in the show, and as such seeing how his story concludes is immensely satisfying.

3.)        Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)

            Spike: "Whatever happens, happens."

Right: Spike. Left: The most fashionable dog in history.

Originally a member of a criminal syndicate, Spike ended up running away from that lifestyle to become a bounty hunter and catch criminals across space. Throughout the series, a number of hints are dropped regarding Spike’s past, and it’s only at the end when everything comes together and we get a clear picture of his life. His past ends up catching up with him though, and the climax of the series has him engage in a deadly fight with his rival-turned-nemesis Vicious. The result of this is one of the best endings to any anime I’ve seen, and one of the most iconic one-liners ever.

To put it simply, Spike is cool. In fact, if this list was purely about the coolest anime characters, Spike would probably be in the top spot. He’s always relaxed and laid-back, regardless of the situation, and his calm composure barely ever slips, even for a second. His almost fatalistic attitude conflicts with his partner Jet, but it’s always Spike who ends up saving the day. Even during the final two episodes of the series the focus is mainly on Spike, and he never loses his composure even during a fight to the death. In a word: cool.

2.)        Isaac Dian & Miria Harvent (Baccano!)

            Isaac:  "We’ve committed 87 robberies these past months. Has there ever been a time that I                                exposed you to any danger?"
            Miria:  "Err, about 87 times."
            Isaac:  "…See? It hasn’t even been a hundred yet!"
            Miria: "That’s true! Amazing!"

"That took 12 days to prepare!"

Not all good protagonists need to be serious, powerful heroes. Isaac and Miria are about as far from that description as possible. If Spike Spiegel is cool and calm in every situation, then these two are the complete opposite. A pair of (surprisingly) successful burglars, Isaac and Miria plan to perform a train robbery on board an intercontinental train, and end up somehow saving most of the passengers from a fight between two rival gang members, another group of train robbers, and a supernatural creature attacking the train. As you may have figured out, chaos follows them everywhere.

Whilst Isaac and Miria are the definition of eccentric, they can also be genuinely heroic. Despite being on the wrong side of the law, they have strong morals and try to cheer up everyone they meet. Given this, it’s not really clear why they went into crime, as neither seem particularly suited for the job. In fact, they’re arguably more heroic (and certainly nicer) than some of the other protagonists in Baccano!, and they’re definitely the funniest.

1.)        Son Goku (Dragon Ball Z)

             Son Goku: "KA…ME…HA…ME…HAA!!!"

Throw your hands in the air, and wave them like you just don't care.

Originally sent to Earth in order to conquer the planet, Goku wound up forgetting his mission and instead became its saviour, and ended up attaining the legendary Super Saiyan form. In the latest extension of Dragon Ball Z continuity (Battle of Gods) he even surpassed the Super Saiyan 3 form and temporarily became a Super Saiyan God, becoming the strongest Saiyan to ever exist. One of the more interesting parts of his character is his rivalry with Vegeta, as the latter changes from a villain to a typical anti-hero. It’s even stated in official DBZ canon that when Goku realised he was going to die of old age, he went off into space with Vegeta for one final fight. If that doesn’t show how close the rivals were, then I don’t know what does.

Let’s face it, of course Goku would be on this list. In fact, it would be a crime to exclude him. He’s so popular that, when Akira Toriyama planned to have Goku’s son Gohan become the main protagonist of Dragon Ball Z, the sheer backlash from people who preferred Goku caused him to reconsider his decision. The simple fact of the matter is that Goku is the definitive Shōnen hero, full stop. As such, many traits of today’s Shōnen characters were either first shown by Goku, or made popular by him. Whether it’s a characters clothes, personality, or abilities, chances are that they were influenced by Goku in some way. Due to this, it’s no wonder that he’s the top of this list.

For those interested, here is the full top 10 list:

10.)      Sebastian Michaelis (Black Butler)

9.)        Light Yagami (Death Note)

8.)        Kiritsugu Emiya (Fate/Zero)

7.)        Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach)

6.)        Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)

5.)        Rintarou Okabe (Steins;Gate)

4.)        Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

3.)        Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)

2.)        Isaac Dian & Miria Harvent (Baccano!)

1.)        Son Goku (Dragon Ball Z)

The Ultimate Dream Team.

Do you have any suggestions for a Top 10 list, or an anime you want reviewed? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below!

ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at The alternative is his Skype account at kyleroulston1993. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to understand quantum physics. He can usually be found telling the laws of physics to sit down and shut up.


  1. Gokuu is number 1? Well he's very influential, yes, but why is the paragraph describing his awesome-ness near completely about his power-ups? Something like this quote from Kanzenshuu, the Dragon Ball forum would be more indicative of what makes Gokuu great:
    [Son Gokuu is a fascinating character anyway, because he is - at face value, anyway - an idiot savant. The victim of violent head trauma as an infant [...] he's a simple bumpkin with a fair share of brain damage who's natural talents to work out what's wrong compensate for his broad lack of common sense. But he's also a fighter, through and through [...] he fight[s] until he has, in no uncertain terms, beaten his enemy on terms they can both acknowledge. He doesn't want to kill anyone, or even prove that he can win... he just wants to know he can. He's an ineffably charming bastard who's manly leanings were really incendental, and yes, the fact that he was voiced by a squeaky woman made the combination perhaps all the more charming. ]
    Also, Naruto and Ichigo are on this list. What.

    1. Regarding Goku's personality, you do have a point, but I wanted to get across that pretty much every anime character who uses a power boost (Naruto, Ichigo, Natsu etc) was inspired by Goku.
      And yes, Naruto and Ichigo are on this list. They're not the best protagonists out there (which is why they weren't in the top 5), but I still like them and think they're decent enough to warrant a place on this list.

    2. You have a point as well,although Ichigo, is what happens if you put Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 into YuYuHakusho.
      Copying Dragon Ball's power boost idea isn't really a smart thing, even in DB itself, I was tired of everyone becoming SSJ (or SSJ2) to the point where non-saiyans were forgotten. Also, power ups can seem lazy and ill be overused. This can be avoided through planning, though.

    3. I do like Ichigo, but the whole 'part human, part Quincy, part soul reaper, part hollow, part human, part full bring' annoys me.
      The power ups were good at first, but when every non-saiyan got pushed to the side, it began to annoy me.

  2. Uzumaki Naruto should not be even in a Top 50 protagonists list, cause he is nothing more but a very cheap Kinniku Suguru copycat. Both of them are children of legendary people, both of them grew up being hated by public then gained their respect, both of them are painfully retarded, both of them eating japanese junk foods (gyudon, ramen), both of them calling their love interests with "-chan", both of them redeem the most important bad guys (Buffaloman, Warsman, Neptuneman, Gaara, Nagato, Uchiha Obito), both of them are super perverts and both of them rarely lose (Suguru lost againts Kamehame and Mixer Taitei, Naruto lost againts Sasuke and Madara - but the later only counts by viewpoints).