Fans of anime tend to form cult-like followings around their favorite characters. As such, there is much debate over which characters are the greatest of all time, and strong variations between fans in regards to which characters are the most loved. There are, of course, several stand outs that typically end up in most fans top 10 lists.
The top 10 most popular anime characters unsurprisingly come from most of the most popular anime series. Among their ranks are Lelouch Lamperouge, Monkey D. Luffy, Killua Zoldyck, Levi Ackerman, L, Edward Elrich, Naruto Uzumaki, Saitama, Son Goku, and Jotaro Joestar.
In this article we will discuss each of these popular characters and what qualifications they meet to make them so popular. Plus, we will cover who the best anime girl is, who the ugliest anime character is, and who the shortest anime character is!
Who is the Most Popular Anime Character?
It is a difficult task to pinpoint which anime character of the thousands that exist is the most popular. As of current vote rankings as of November 2020 on the popular anime community website My Anime List, Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass comes out on top with 128,366 votes total.
However, this number one spot can easily be taken, and on other websites that rank anime characters in terms of popularity, such as Ranker and IGN, completely different characters hold the coveted number one spot.
As such, it is hard to say who the most popular anime character is for certain, although there are certainly front runners that we will cover momentarily. First, let us take a look at just what makes an anime character popular with fans.
What are the Qualifications for Being the Most Popular Anime Character?
There are many characteristics that can qualify an anime character for popularity. However, there are generally six categories the most popular anime characters typically align with. They are aesthetics, skill, finesse, personality, humor, and motivation.
Each of these qualifiers can work independently, though often are seen displayed in combination with each other in the most beloved characters of all time. Here is a more in-depth look at each of these characteristics:
- Aesthetics: The physical appearance and style of an anime character can greatly define the public reception of said character.
- Skill: Majorly popular characters generally have a strong skillset – whether it be in magic, combat, or some other field – that sets them apart from other characters.
- Finesse: While skill is important, popular characters will often have a strong sense of finesse to their actions, meaning they act in a deliberate and stylish manner that is uniquely their own.
- Personality: Popular anime characters will typically have a well-defined set of personality traits that carry through even as the character evolves. This commitment to a particular personality is part of what draws viewers in.
- Humor: While not all popular anime characters are super funny or humorous, each will usually have a well-defined sense of humor that is employed in both light and serious moments in order to invoke reactions from viewers.
- Motivation: A strong motivating purpose will lie at the core of a popular anime character’s being, though this motivation will vary depending on the type of anime they belong to. This motivating factor will often be seen woven into most of the underlying storyline.
The Top 10 Most Popular Anime Characters
As mentioned, it can be hard to pinpoint which anime characters are truly the most popular. However, after considering many different lists and evaluations of different characters, the following ten have made the cut for this top 10 list thanks to their adherence to the above-listed qualifications and the general reception that can be found online about each of them.
It should be noted that this list chooses to only permit one character per anime series, so as to avoid a singular series from dominating the entire list (looking at you, Naruto!). WARNING: Descriptions are kept purposefully vague in terms of plot for those who have not yet watched these series, but there may be spoilers ahead.
#1: Lelouch Lamperouge – Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Lelouch Lamperouge is the prominent antihero from the series Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. Code Geass, in general, draws large fan attention thanks to its complex storyline and dark characters.
Lelouch in particular stands out, not only because he is the main character, but because of his strong need for vengeance and retribution after harm comes to his family and he is banished from his home. He also draws major fan attention for his way of dress, characterized by a gothic aesthetic.
Lelouch was furthermore selected as the most popular male character from 2006 to 2008 at Animage magazine’s annual Anime Grand Prix, according to the Code Geass Wiki, and as mentioned he currently holds the number one spot on My Anime List.
#2: Monkey D. Luffy – One Piece
Monkey D. Luffy is the main protagonist of the widely popular and loved anime One Piece. One Piece centers around Luffy and his gang of pirates, the Straw Hat Pirates, as he strives to become the Pirate King.
Luffy hits basically all six of the aforementioned characteristics. He has a well-recognized aesthetic with his iconic straw hat, a great skill of being able to stretch his limbs and body like elastic, the finesse to find creative ways out of tricky situations, a personality that is defined by confidence and his sense of humor, and his ever-lasting desire to be the Pirate King.
There are many other notable characters that come from One Piece as well, such as the swordsman Roronoa Zoro (aka Pirate Hunter Zoro) who is featured among many other top 10 lists.
#3: Killua Zoldyck - Hunter x Hunter
Killua Zoldyck is one of the main protagonists featured within the anime Hunter x Hunter, though he is not the title character. Killua captured hearts almost instantly as a highly-skilled and murderous young boy from a family of assassins.
Despite his violent origins, Killua is characterized by his love for his best friend (and the main character) Gon Freecs. Killua certainly hits the mark with aesthetics, with his pure white hair, bright blue eyes, and many outfit changes. Additionally, his finesse and skill in battle is truly terrifying for all of his foes.
Hunter x Hunter is yet another anime that has produced several well-loved and popular characters, most notably of which is Hisoka – the joker-like antagonist from the first few arcs of the story.
#4: Levi Ackerman – Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan is one anime that is not for the faint of heart – although many fans overlook the horror and gore simply for their love of Levi Ackerman. Though he started as a side character, Levi has become one of the main protagonists of the series that follows the story of humans fighting against massive man-eating titans.
Levi’s appeal with fans come from both his deadpan personality, classic sense of style, and massive skill in battle combat. Levi is a squad captain within the special operations squad that belongs to the Survey Corps, a group of soldiers dedicated to fighting and killing the titans.
#5: L (Lawliet) – Death Note
Death Note is a common entry point into the anime world for those who were otherwise unfamiliar with the genre – and L is easily one of the main reasons new fans get drawn in. L (whose true name is revealed to be Lawliet much later on) is technically the antagonist of this series, though in truth he is widely considered to be the true hero.
L, who is a highly private and secretive private detective, goes up against main character Light Yagami in this seriously dramatic story. L’s deductive skills are put to the test as he must decipher how a mysterious killer known as Kira (Light) is able to kill so many without being physically present (the truth being that Light Yagami obtained a Death Note – a notebook belonging to a grim reaper (Shimigami) that brings death to all those whose names are written within it).
The pure genius and intelligence displayed by L, paired with his awkward mannerisms and personality, bring many fans to deeply love this character and his wit.
#6: Edward Elric – Fullmetal Alchemist
Edward “Ed” Elric is the main protagonist of the widely acclaimed anime series Fullmetal Alchemist. Ed embodies the nature of an underdog character on his quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone in order to restore the life of his younger brother, whose soul was trapped after a failed alchemy experiment.
Ed himself was also injured in the process, leaving him with no right arm of left leg. Part of his aesthetic appeal to fans is when, after the accident, he is fitted with metal limb replacements (known as “automail”). The overarching theme of Ed’s character is that to keep promises, which resounds well with fans of the series. As CBR’s Top 15 Most Popular Anime Characters in History list states:
#7: Naruto Uzumaki – Naruto
We have arrived at Naruto, the anime that could dominate this list if we so allowed it. The anime takes it name from the main character, Naruto Uzumaki, a shinobi who also can transform into the “Nine-Tailed Fox.”
Naruto, even more so than Ed Elric, is the full embodiment of the “underdog” as he transforms from an outcast at his school to a full-blown ninja. Naruto’s skill and ambition have also led to some of the most iconic battle scenes in anime history, and Naruto has been dubbed one of the most successful and influential anime series to be brought to U.S. audiences, according to Japan Powered.
Other highly notable characters from Naruto include Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura Haruno, Katashi Hatake, and Itachi Uchiha.
#8: Saitama – One Punch Man
Saitama is the strongest man alive. No, seriously. Saitama is the title character featured in the anime One Punch Man. He is considered the strongest being in the entire universe, which serves as a hilarious plot point in many episodes and battles throughout the series.
One Punch Man follows Saitama, a superhero who trained so hard that all his hair fell off his body, as he navigates his existential dread that has resulted from him being unable to gain any sense of satisfaction or achievement from battle due to him being able to defeat enemies with a single punch.
This character and the anime to which he belongs explores the idea of overpowered hero characters and the resulting indifference Saitama experiences. One Punch Man is highly self-aware, and the comedy behind Saitama’s character draws many fans towards him.
#9: Son Goku – Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z, like Naruto, has experienced great popularity in the U.S., leading to many of its characters being some of the most popular anime characters of all time. The story follows Goku, who was sent to destroy Earth as an infant but experienced memory loss and instead became one of Earth’s greatest defenders.
The popularity of Goku leads back to the longevity of the series and relatable storyline of Goku’s quest to overcome the evil in his own origins and fight for good. Many viewers grew up watching Dragon Ball Z, and thus have grown with Goku over the years.
#10: Jotaro Joestar – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
You can’t have a top 10 popular anime character list without talking about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Though the series draws in a more niche audience, the widespread recognition of its characters speaks for itself.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure follows the story of the Joestar family, with each story arc focusing on a different Joestar. Jotaro Joestar is the main protagonist in the third arc of the anime, Stardust Crusaders. Jotaro has gained infamy across the internet even with those who have never seen the series, as he is featured in many memes and videos thanks to his many quirks.
Jotaro is characterized by an intense indifferent yet aggressive attitude. His dark sense of style and humor draws in the attention of Jojo fanatics, making him one of the favorite renditions of the Joestars. Additionally, his overwhelming sense of power and overpowered talents have led to several iconic fight scenes, the most iconic of which led to this infamous and hilarious dialogue between him and main antagonist Dio.
Who is the Best Anime Girl?
You may have noticed that this list features all-male characters. The truth is that more often than not, the male characters in anime series receive much more recognition and popularity than the female characters. Nonetheless, there are certainly a few girls that fight for spots on this list.
Rem from the anime Re:Zero is arguably one of the best anime girls, with her cute character design, dark backstory, and overall high public reception.
Mikasa from Attack on Titan is a close runner-up, as the best friend of main character Eren Yeager. Mikasa is one of the many beloved characters to come from the series and is a frequently cosplayed character.
Who is the Ugliest Anime Character?
One thing about anime is for certain – the genre has produced some wickedly ugly character designs over the years. “Ugly” character designs, in fact, hold a significant amount of power in being able to quickly alert the audience as to what to expect from the character.
The Witch of the Waste from Howl’s Moving Castle is generally regarded as being one of the most intentionally ugly characters within anime, especially since her character revolves around using others to gain her own beauty back.
Who is the Shortest Anime Character?
There are tons of exceptionally small characters across several anime series.
Some of the most notable short characters include Mineta Minoru from My Hero Academia, who stands at a whopping 3’6”, and Charmy Pappitson from Black Clover, whose height varies according to what form she has taken. Her shortest form makes her appear to be a young child.
Ultimately, it is pretty hard to pin down who exactly are the most popular anime characters, as there are so many series and even more interesting and complex characters to choose from.
The ten listed here are some of the most commonly referenced and beloved characters to be born out of the genre, but at the end of the day, it is up to each individual viewer to decide who their favorites are.