Top 10 Anime Characters of 2016
Written by: ClayDragon & Shiggins
It’s sometimes said that an anime is only as good as its characters. The animation can be perfect and the fights can be glorious to watch, but if the characters aren’t engaging then the whole series just falls apart. Luckily for us, we were blessed with a huge amount of great characters this year, and being the obsessive-compulsive fans that we are, we just had to make a list of the 10 best ones. Please note that we've only considered characters who made their first appearance this year, regardless of when their show actually started.
Side note: Whilst we made an effort to watch lots of shows that started airing this year, we couldn’t see them all. So if there’s a character that you think should be on this list but isn’t, then it’s probably because we never got around to watching it, as opposed to us not liking it.
As is this the case with many of these lists, SPOILER ALERT. You have been warned.
10.) Megumin (KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!) (Written by: ClayDragon)
“Come now, and walk the path of explosions with me!”
When you play an RPG, what role do you tend to gravitate towards? Do you usually play as a thief, liking the feeling of being able to backstab enemies? Do you play as a warrior, being able to charge right into the fray? Or do you play as a mage, and destroy enemies from afar with magic? Megumin chose the mage life, and never looked back. This diminutive sorcerer has an unhealthy love for explosions, and chose to become a mage purely so she could find and cast the ultimate destructive magic.
|She's better than any demolitionist.|
Of course, this comes with some drawbacks. Megumin can cast an insanely powerful Explosion spell, but it leaves her incapacitated for the rest of the day and she refuses to learn any other spells. After all, she already has the best spell, so why would she need any others? Megumin is a classic chuunibyou – she claims to want to take over the world, she has complete faith in her (fairly limited) abilities, and wears an eyepatch and strikes poses in order to make her look more mysterious. And, as most chuunibyou characters tend to be, she’s absolutely hilarious.
|Geez Megumin, just hit him with your staff already.|
Even though she’s a magical powerhouse, Megumin is still just a young girl, and her excitable nature and all-around wackiness means that she fits in perfectly with the rest of Kazuma’s party. She may be young, but her fighting ability is not to be underestimated – she almost single-handedly destroyed an enormous magical superweapon by herself, with one spell! Granted, the effect was lessened when she faceplanted immediately afterwards, but you have to give credit where it’s due. Adorable, hilarious and occasionally badass, Megumin is the most entertaining character in a very entertaining show.
9.) Satoru Fujinuma (Erased) (Written by: ClayDragon)
“Every day, the words cross my mind. “If I had done this back then…” But they don’t take the sincere form of regret. The words are just an excuse that come to mind, then disappear.”
Have you ever felt lost? Confused? Lacking direction? Needing to find a purpose in life? If you answered yes, then you’ll probably relate to our next entry. Erased’s protagonist Satoru is a 29-year old working part-time for a pizza delivery company who struggles to find out how to actually get his ideal job. He also has an uncontrollable ability which he’s named ‘Revival’, which sends his consciousness back in time by a certain amount – usually a few minutes – in order to prevent any life-threatening incidents (that part might be harder to relate to).
|"Hello, police? There's a strange person photographing me without my permission."|
Ever since Kayo, a girl at Satoru’s school was murdered, he blamed himself for being unable to stop her death, and so when his Revival ability goes into overdrive and sends him 18 years back in time to a few weeks before the murder, he becomes determined to save Kayo. As he makes friends with her and revisits old friendships with the rest of his classmates, Satoru gradually changes from being an emotionally distant character full of self-doubt to being more open, caring and supportive person who ends up with a close-knit group of friends – a far cry from the way he was at the start of the series.
Whilst Satoru isn’t an action hero in the traditional sense, he still ends up saving numerous lives (Kayo’s included) simply by being kind to the right people. He becomes friends with people not purely to save them, but because he can relate their actions to his own experiences and realises that they’re lonely and need support. Seeing the young Satoru use the knowledge and social skills that he developed as an adult to help people and have the childhood that he always wanted is a wonderful sight, and his compassion and devotion to his friends is nothing short of admirable.
8.) Katsuhira Agata (Kiznaiver) (Written by: Shiggins)
"I can't take any interest at all in what other people think, to be honest."
When I first heard the characters talk about Katsuhira, I immediately froze in horror. He just immediately sounded like such an insufferable protagonist by design, as if someone wanted to create a bratty teenager full of angst and whining and drama. He's a character that feels no pain or emotion, and doesn't that just sound like something a shitty teenager would write to try and represent how they think they are on Tumblr?
|Surviving 2016 like...|
Instead though, what we got was someone surprisingly charming and fun. Unlike the hundreds of people on the internet who make claims like they feel nothing or have zero sexualities or whatever, Katsuhira is a character who literally can't feel pain. There's a scene where he throws himself off a bridge, lands in a car, sits up covered in blood and just gives a thumbs up like he's okay. He just got hit by a car! He should not be okay, but this isn't a whiny suckfest so the series doesn't write him like one.
|See? He has a spatula. Nobody who has a spatula can be moody!|
And it's the writing that really saves him. In someone else's hands, this could easily have fallen apart but Katsuhira is made sympathetic and interesting because of how well-handled and controlled he is. At times, it causes his personality to feel a little bit flat since everyone else around him is so vibrant, but that does help his later scenes have more impact. If he hadn't pissed me off by choosing the wrong romantic partner at the end, I might have gone higher. Yes, I am a petty bitch.
7.) Zamasu (Dragon Ball Super) (Written by: Shiggins)
“What good are gods if they do not destroy evil?!"
Let's be honest here and say we'll never again get someone like Frieza when it comes to Dragon Ball. Frieza influenced the series in so many ways that I am literally had to begin my praising of the newest villain by mentioning him. That's how big Frieza is. So comparing any villain to him is unfair and it just causes everyone, even Cell, to look bad. While he's obviously not at Frieza's level, I would go so far as to say Zamasu might be the first villain of Super that has come anywhere near his level of greatness.
|"Hey, I'm God!" "I'm not-so-God!" "And we are the Game Gods!"|
Zamasu follows one of the more classic villain stories out there, that humanity is bad and should be wiped out because fuck humanity. We've seen it a million times, but it's made far more interesting by having an actual God/Kai be the one giving these speeches about how humans should be wiped out. It's also great to see Zamasu's reasoning evolve over time, as he starts off from a calm and concerned character who is worried about the future, to a literal monster evolving into something grotesque as his sanity is smashed and he is opposed at every turn by the heroes. It's times like the fight against SSG Vegito that really help villains stand out and keep them from being bland shells.
|He stole my Super Saiyan White idea! Yes, I was the very very first to have that idea!|
Zamasu gave us an evil Goku, and Super somehow managed to make that chilling and creepy, rather than ridiculous. If Goku is Superman, Zamasu is Bizarro. I'd say Zamasu's biggest weakness is how rushed his evolution into villainy is, as the pacing of Super is always all over the place and can interfere with certain characters' development. Other than that though, Zamasu feels exactly like a classic Dragon Ball villain should. A great, unique design mixed with way too much talking, incredibly dramatic movesets that I hope to play one day, and giving us some transformations in both himself and the protagonists. If you ever worry that Zamasu wasn't great, just remember that he gave us the Super Spirit Bomb Sword (or whatever it's called)!
6.) Yuri Katsuki (Yuri on Ice) (Written by: Shiggins)
"Victor is the first person I've ever wanted to hold on to. I don't really have a name for that emotion, but I have decided to call it love.”
I was really presented with an odd problem when it came to this entry because, in my mind, all three of the protagonists were worthy of consideration. And while his coach Victor Nikiforov is hilarious and Yuri/Yurio Plisetsky can go from remarkably ridiculous to beautiful in a matter of seconds, I had to go for the safe bet of our main protagonist Yuri Katsuki, aka the non-Russian one.
|Look, it's Victor's pet! And a doggy too!|
Starting off the series as a fat failure who lost his childhood crush to another man because of his devotion to the art of figure skating, Yuri is a low-confidence loser who constantly has to remind himself not to back down in front of the more badass Yuri that threatens to take the trophy from him. Unlike a lot of other sport protagonists out there, Yuri isn't (usually) an overly-excited idiot with bright eyes and a dream, nor is he a moody teen who can't accept any help. He's a geek, through and through. And as you'll be able to tell with another entry later on, I like geeks.
|This show's pretty! So pretty and witty and gay!|
It's just enjoyable to see someone go through the necessary development to get further in life, but not with the usual constant optimism that you'd expect. He literally breaks down in tears because he needs help, and his relationship with Victor just becomes more fascinating as time goes on. Whether you believe it as romantic or not, it's wonderful and a huge factor in his character. Also, I have to be honest here, it's hard to compare any other anime moment to the figure skating he gave me. Such a tranquil experience.
5.) Kyosuke Munakata (Danganronpa 3: Future Arc) (Written by: Shiggins)
“I am not like you. I believe in power. No matter how many I make into victims, even if it means my death, I shall destroy despair. That is my resolve!”
FUCK EVIL! Yeah! Let's be real men and stab all the bad guys because fuck them! We're not bad, we're good! And good people stab bad people! That's what real men do! That is until we start to go nuts because our girlfriend dies and then we find out she had some really dark secrets and that makes us go even crazier and become a surprisingly terrifying avenger.
|Is this technically him being meta?|
Munakata presents a new type of character that Danganronpa rarely gets to try out; one that breaks apart as the story goes on but isn't completely gone and needs someone, preferably a useless fucking protagonist who hasn't done anything during this entire series, to just give him a safe space to let out the tears. A real man needs to cry too! He just needs you to help him do that!
|"Isn't the blood so romantic tonight, darling?"|
Munakata's physical and emotional transformation, from a stoic badass who makes sure you obey the rules into a frenzied lunatic who thinks everyone is his enemy and refuses to relax until everyone in his life is destroyed, is both an emotional and awesome adventure. I'll never forget when he literally stabbed a corpse to ensure they definitely stayed dead, or even get over how he reacted when he saw the true consequence and loss from his actions. As a real man myself, it made me snivel like a little girl.
4.) Izuku Midoriya (My Hero Academia) (Written by: Shiggins)
"I'm not gonna be your worthless punching bag Deku forever... Kacchan. I'm... I'm the Deku who always does his best!"
I've talked about Midoriya before in the article where I compared him to One Punch Man's Saitama (link here), but let's just have a laugh and do so again. After the endings of both Bleach and Naruto (I know Bleach technically was still going but... it's been dead to me for a long time), we needed something new. Something that was a breath of fresh air and light and joy, with a face we could cheer for. And by god, we got that face.
|And that face came with freckles!|
As I mentioned earlier in this article, I'm tired of overly-excited and overly-stupid characters who just need to roar and suddenly they win. It was fun in the 90s but in this day and age, we need someone relatable and who actually puts some damn effort and thought into his situations. Midoriya is such a character, as he not only comes up with clever plans and ideas during his battles, but literally studies constantly and is a massive fucking nerd.
A funny, bright protagonist is exactly what I needed this year, and not someone who's whining would feel unmotivated or pointless. When Midoriya complained about his weak power-less body, I understand and felt that pain. He just wanted to be a superhero, damn it. Who can't relate to that?! He was bullied, beaten, hurt... but he got back up! He crawled his way to the sort-of top, with every step of the way feeling like it had an impact. He had to train, learn, plan, create, consider, strategise, and other words you can find online. Midoriya is a nerd and an amazing protagonist. I'll defend him to the end, although he probably wouldn't need it after the first few episodes.
3.) Osamu Dazai (Bungou Stray Dogs) (Written by: Claydragon)
“I’ve heard that if you’re too neurotic, you’ll get lots of wrinkles and your aging becomes accelerated.”
When unlucky orphan Atsushi Nakajima happens upon a man seemingly drowning in a river, he does the honourable thing and helps the unlucky stranger out. Unfortunately, it turns out Atsushi unintentionally screwed up the man’s suicide attempt, and so the man – one Osamu Dazai – is a bit peeved to find out he’s still alive. Dazai is a member of the Armed Detective Agency – a somewhat clandestine group of people with special abilities who work as detectives investigating a number of unusual cases, and he’s far and away the most entertaining member.
|"It says here I've been included on a Top 10... How nice of them!"|
Dazai’s suicidal tendencies are played for humour, and are a reference to the real-life Osamu Dazai, who famously committed suicide at a relatively young age. Although some people may not find such inclinations particularly amusing, Dazai is still a hilarious character even without taking his propensities into account. He’s a shameless flirt, likes messing with people for his own amusement (especially his long-suffering colleague Kunikida), and enjoys playing video games during otherwise serious moments.
|This is pretty much Dazai's character in a single gif.|
That being said, Dazai is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by their cover. The reveal that he used to work for the Mafia casts a new light on his character, and a flashback shows that he used to be fairly ruthless before he decided to be on the side that helps people. Dazai is capable of being both serious and hilarious, and he’s characterised in such a way that neither of these feel forced or out-of-place. Dazai made Bungou Stray Dogs a much more enjoyable show, and we can’t wait to see more of him.
2.) Shigeo Kageyama a.k.a. Mob (Mob Psycho 100) (Written by: ClayDragon)
“You don’t like me because we’re the same. Not because of the fact that we both have psychic powers, but the fact that you have no confidence in yourself, just like me. If you take away those powers, there’ll be nothing left.”
Adolescence is hard for everyone. Your social skills take a dip, you have trouble talking to girls, and you need to start taking on part-time jobs. Chances are, most of us wished for psychic powers at some point during our teenage years (I know I still do on a semi-regular basis), but for Mob, things are a bit different. Despite being one of the most powerful espers ever, he tries to avoid using his powers as much as possible due to an unfortunate incident in his past. The problem is, Mob’s powers are strongly linked to his emotions, and so his insistence on not using his abilities has had the negative effect of forcing him to lock his feelings away.
|Finally, a protagonist we can all relate to.|
That’s not to say Mob is emotionless – it becomes very apparent over the course of the series that he has feelings just as strong as anyone else – but his constant poker face and stoic attitude has resulted in him being isolated from his peers. A large part of Mob’s character is devoted to explaining that psychic powers don’t make you popular or better than anyone else, and in fact the two people that he looks up to the most are completely normal (at first, anyway). Even though he’s the strongest character in the series and can crush any opponent at full strength, he doesn’t want to be defined solely by his abilities, and makes the effort to better himself in more conventional ways. Mob is incredibly conscious of the feelings of people around him, to the point where he flat-out refuses to harm an opponent unless there is literally no other option.
|Or you push him well beyond his patience.|
Despite his superpowers, Mob is just a normal boy – he’s shy, kind and loyal, and simply wants to be a bit more popular at school. He’s someone that the audience can relate to – after all, who hasn’t felt like a dorky outcast at times? His relationship with his mentor Reigen (who was also seriously considered for this list) is touching and funny, and it’s clear that they both bring out the best of each other. Whilst Mob Psycho 100 can be completely insane at times, it’s Mob’s humanity and empathy that keep the show grounded, and his subtle, gradual development make him one of the more likeable and compelling shonen heroes of recent years.
1.) Rem (Re:Zero –Starting Life in Another World–) (Written by: ClayDragon)
“No matter what painful things happen, even when it looks like you’ll lose…when no one else in the world believes in you…when you don’t even believe in yourself…I will believe in you!”
I apologise to all you Emilia fans out there (if you exist – I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen one), but Rem is not only the best girl in Re:Zero by a mile, she’s easily the best character, full stop. When her and her sister Ram first show up they seem like the stereotypical twin double-act – they’re always together, they speak to each other all the time, and they constantly berate Subaru. However, over the course of the many time loops that Subaru goes through, we get to see many different sides to Rem, making her a lot more rounded. Even though Rem is stronger, her initial inferiority complex towards Ram is understandable, and the fact that she’s a total badass doesn’t hurt.
|It's three on one, and they never stood a chance.|
As time passes and Rem begins to trust Subaru more, she begins to open up and eventually falls in love with him. She’s the only character that always trusts him unconditionally, and when Subaru hits his lowest point it’s ultimately Rem who snaps him out of it with a wonderful speech about how he needs to accept his failings, but also realise all the good that he’s done. Rem’s loyalty and compassion make her a joy to watch, and the many sacrifices she makes throughout the numerous loops just make you want to root for her even more.
|Best girl. No question.|
Rem is easily the most popular character from Re:Zero – she has tons of fanart, consistently places highly in fan polls, and department stores in Japan are even holding events celebrating her birthday! She has become one of the more iconic anime characters this year and her popularity doesn’t show any signs of fading any time soon. Taking all of this into account, there was no way we couldn’t give Rem the top spot on this list.
|Ikoma (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress)|
|Mary (Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash)|
|Hotaru Shidare (Dagashi Kashi)|
Thanks for reading!
ClayDragon has finished studying Physics at university, and understands about as much as he did when he started. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at email@example.com. He has an ask.fm account at ask.fm/ClayDragon. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to figure out what to do with his life. No prison can hold him.
Shiggins enjoys many strange forms of communication, especially those including cosplayers or presents or videos. However, until that wonderful day comes when people care enough to give him things for being him, you can contact him on his Skype; shigginsishere. He can also respond to you if you contact him through GMails at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can find out about him or ask him stuff on ask.fm/shigginsishere.