The 10 Best Written Anime Leads Of All Time

The world of Japanese animation is home to some of the best and most compelling protagonists in all of fiction and they truly come to life when a screenwriter is at the helm. Anyone can invent a self-inserted isekai protagonist or a forgettable shonen hero who punches his way to victory, while a well-written character can be so much more.

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In any type of fiction, a well-written character is one with a complex and relatable emotional side, interesting and thought-provoking goals or philosophies, a dynamic character arc, memorable dialogue, and much more. Some characters are even commentaries on modern society or embody timeless themes in a fresh new way, all thanks to expert writing.

10 Thorfinn Karlsefni learned some hard lessons (Vinland Saga)

thorfinn karlsefni

Seinen anime features some of the best written characters in all of anime as they are not limited by the conventions of shonen anime such as the power of friendship and never giving up. Vinland Saga Thorfinn Karlsefni is off to a great start, a vicious anti-hero with a broken heart and revenge on his mind.

Thorfinn was an excitable boy with a thirst for adventure, until he lost his father, Thors, on his first adventure beyond Iceland, which hardened his heart. Thorfinn was hell-bent on revenge until he learned the hard way that revenge is empty and that he needed something more meaningful in his life.

9 Edward Elric also learned some hard lessons (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood of Edward Elric is the youngest state alchemist in history, but he’s not exactly proud of that fact. He and his brother, Alphonse, committed a great sin when they arrogantly tried to revive their dead mother, Trisha, and ever since the brothers have been on a humble quest to restore their bodies.

Edward is compelling for his optimistic but also somber and realistic view of the world. He’s also a charming tsundere and proactive action star, which is a winning combination. He is wise beyond his years and is committed to helping others however he can. He opposes the cycle of hate and violence.

8 Ken Kaneki embraced his Ghoul side (Tokyo Ghoul)

Tokyo Ghoul closeup

tokyo ghoul Ken Kaneki was once a normal college student until he was attacked and turned into a half-demon, which changed his life forever. Ken was in denial at first, but he had to let go of his humanity and embrace the ghoul side of him without completely giving up who he is. It was a difficult balancing act, but Ken pulled it off.

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Ken combined his ghoul nature with what was left of his humanity so he could become a man of two worlds and try to guide ghouls and humans to a better future. Ken has many enemies, and he can get lost in their bloodlust and his rage, but no matter how monstrous he becomes, Ken remains a well-written and sympathetic main character.

7 Subaru Natsuki’s torment is palpable (Re:Zero)

Subaru enters another loop in Re Zero

While a variety of isekai heroes are actually forgettable self-inserts, some of them are the exception, like the unlucky Subaru Natsuki from Re: zero. He ended up in a fantasy realm with only one ability: come back to life at a checkpoint and resume his quest, as if he were loading a save game into a video game.

Subaru slowly becomes a trustworthy, proactive, and sincere leader despite his many deaths and setbacks. Re: zeroThe writing of makes Subaru’s emotional torment clear for all to see. When he breaks down crying or starts screaming in despair, anime fans can really feel it.

6 Light Yagami is complex and chilling (Death Note)

light yagami from death note

Anime fans could write an entire book on the philosophy, themes, and actions of the dark antihero Light Yagami, the protagonist of Death Note. Light began the story as a boring but brilliant high school student who had all sorts of ideas when he picked up the Death Note, and the true nature of him as a brutal anti-hero soon became apparent.

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Light quickly blurred the line between hero and villain as he built his kingdom of Kira at the cost of criminal blood and challenged viewers to reevaluate their ideas of right versus wrong, justice versus crime, and much more. He sank deeper into the darkness until he was barely recognizable.

5 Naruto Uzumaki is surprisingly deep (Naruto)

happy naruto in shippuden

First of all, of naruto The main Shonen protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki, was just another excitable kid with a dream. Over the course of many episodes and chapters, Naruto grew as a person and became wise beyond his years about the cycle of hate, fate, hope, and more.

Naruto channeled his pain and misery into something much better and showed limitless compassion and kindness to other people to change their lives and change the entire world. Naruto used much more than his Rasengan to save the world.

4 Eren Yeager is the new Light Yagami (Attack on Titan)

Eren on the roof in AoT S4

like Naruto, Attack the titans Eren Yeager was a hotheaded shonen hero at first, and like Light Yagami, Eren slowly transformed into something much darker. Gradually, Eren learned of his true role in the world as Grisha’s son and Zeke’s half-brother and also learned the revealing truth of the world.

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Eren later became a savage anti-hero bent on destroying the world, and while it’s easy to criticize his apocalyptic plan, attack on titan fans can’t help but understand why Eren acts and thinks the way he does.

3 Guts has come a long way (Berserk)

Guts walks through fire in Berserk.

in 1997 crazed anime, the 2016 anime, and the original by Kentaro Miura crazed manga series, the protagonist Guts has been a compelling and sincere mercenary hero who has since become a dark fantasy icon. He may wield a giant dragon-slaying sword, but there’s more to him than that.

Guts is defined by many things, from childhood trauma and mercenary experience to his budding relationship with Casca, his bitter feud with the traitorous Griffith, and his growing appreciation of the value of friendship. Guts is like a shonen, seinen and even shojo hero all rolled into one and his character arc is incredibly dynamic.

two Izuku is a loser like no other (My Hero Academia)

izuku looking up to the sky my hero academia

Izuku Midoriya is the star of my hero academia and he is another anime hero who is more complex than he seems at first. Izuku is one of the best underdogs in anime who deeply identifies with many people for many different reasons. He is wonderfully inspiring with his incredible courage and his determination to do something for himself.

Izuku’s quirkless state and worldview are quite relevant to the struggles of many people today: the underprivileged or invisible people who feel like they don’t belong. Izuku is relatable and becomes an excellent role model with his incredible progress despite adversity.

1 Saitama is heroic but quietly dark (One-Punch Man)

Saitama stood clueless on the road.

One Punch Man Bald with a cape, Saitama is much more than a parody of the superhero genre. Saitama is a relatable seinen hero who deftly blurs the line between a true action star and a darkly compelling, realistic hero who’s a little world-weary. It’s a strange but effective combination.

Saitama speaks for everyone who wants to become someone great, but may lack the external validation or motivation to do so. Saitama could also be a symbol of depression, a character who has incredible strength but no meaning behind it. He must find his true purpose in life somewhere, somehow, and that is a search of any kind. One Punch Man fan can relate.

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