Who are the most popular anime characters of all time?
There are many anime characters who have become insanely popular with fans over the years.
However, some have even become so famous that even those outside of the anime community can recognize them.
Today, we’re taking a look at the characters who have transcended their source material to become the most iconic characters in anime.
The 25 Most Popular Anime Characters of All Time
To create this list, we’ve compared individual polls conducted by the largest anime websites to gauge fan popularity.
We’ve also taken into account the overall impact that each character has had in anime history.
This has allowed us to create our in-depth list of the 25 most popular anime characters of all time:
25. Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)
The former gangster turned bounty hunter, Spike Spiegel, kicks off our list, and he’s as cool as he is popular.
A skilled fighter, Spike isn’t afraid to run his mouth, which he almost always has a lit cigarette in.
Although he is notoriously lazy, that doesn’t stop him from being one of the best gunslingers in the show and one of the best-dressed protagonists in anime.
While the Netflix adaptation of Cowboy Bebop was canceled after season one, the anime remains one of the best series of all time.
Even though Netflix did him and his whole crew dirty, anime fans still love this character, and his popularity hasn’t waned.
24. Rem (Re:Zero)
Rem is one of the best characters in Re:Zero, along with her sister Ram, and her loyalty to Subaru is inspiring.
While she isn’t the strongest fighter, Rem isn’t afraid to defend those she cares about, and he mental resilience is astounding.
She is also one of the best blue-haired anime girls and has become an icon in her own right among the anime community.
Plus, she’s just an adorable character who you can’t help but become invested in from episode one.
23. Kakashi Hatake (Naruto)
Kakashi Hatake is beloved by fans of the Naruto series, and he is responsible for teaching the importance of teamwork to up-and-coming shinobi.
Despite not being one of the strongest characters in the anime, Kakashi is as adept at jutsu as he is at witty one-liners.
His personality and fortitude immediately endeared him to anime fans, and he has quickly become one of the most recognizable Naruto characters.
He may not be the star of the show, but things certainly wouldn’t be the same without him.
22. Lelouch Lamperogue (Code Geass)
Lelouch is the main protagonist of Code Geass and one of the most complex characters in anime.
It’s easy to become invested in his journey to avenge his family, even if his means aren’t exactly 100% heroic.
While his descent into madness is difficult to watch, especially as he betrays and kills thousands, his story is nonetheless compelling.
As he becomes the type of tyrant he once swore vengeance on, it’s hard not to be glued to the edge of your seat.
This incredibly well-written characterization is exactly why he remains one of the most iconic anime characters in history.
21. Satoru Gojo (Jujutsu Kaisen)
Satoru Gojo isn’t one to take anything too seriously, even though his existence is what keeps spirits and curse users in check.
However, as the strongest jujutsu user in the world, his power is as impressive as it is terrifying.
As a mentor, he has a very hands-off approach to teaching, but his encouragement is more than enough to guide Yugi down the right path.
Although some fans of the series may find him a bit arrogant, given how powerful he is, we think his personality is well-earned.
20. Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul)
The protagonist from one of the best action anime series of all time, Ken Kaneki, the one-eyed ghoul, has left a huge impression on fans.
His story is filled with pain, suffering, remorse, and gore, all of which have made him a largely complicated character.
Ken is constantly fighting against his ghoul side and trying to reconcile his humanity, which immediately draws in viewers.
It is hard not to feel for him as you watch his journey unfold, and he leaves a lasting impression on anyone who’s watched until the end.
19. Hachiman Hikigaya (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
When we first meet Hachiman Hikigaya, he comes across as a fatalistic loner who goes out of his way not to associate with anyone.
However, instead of being a run-of-the-mill-edge lord, we soon learn about all of his deep insecurities that have influenced his behavior.
Underneath his tsundere exterior is really a lot of vulnerability, which is something many fans can relate to on some level.
This relatability has helped make him one of the most popular characters in anime, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
18. Mikasa Ackerman (Attack On Titan)
Mikasa is a fan-favorite character from Attack on Titan, and she’s proven herself to be a complete badass.
One of the best black-haired anime girls, Mikasa, has a tragic backstory that has caused her to develop a lot of admiration for Eren.
However, despite all of the tragedies around her, she has remained one of the strongest characters in the series.
This is one anime girl who doesn’t let circumstances hold her back, and fans can’t help but admire her strength and calm personality.
17. Itachi Uchiha (Naruto)
Itachi Uchiha is one of the most well-known characters in Naruto and the perfect anti-hero.
Not only was he one of the strongest shinobi, but he played a pivotal role in the narrative as one of the best-written anime characters in history.
After pretending to be a villain in order to save Sasuke, Itachi meets his end at the hands of his own brother, something that hit views right in the feels.
Despite being killed off, Itachi remains one of the best anime characters in history thanks to his incredible depth and well-written story.
16. Kurisu Makise (Steins;Gate)
One of the best red-haired anime girls, Kurisu Makise is hard to forget once you see her in action.
While she comes off as cold, this tsundere has a sweet side that immediately makes her endearing.
In an anime filled with great characters, Kurisu still manages to steal the spotlight, teaming up with Rintaro as his partner in crime.
It also helps that she’s a literal genius who uses her brains to outshine even her superiors, including her own father.
15. Gintoki Sakata (Gintama)
As the protagonist of Gintama, Gintoki Sakata is a hard character not to like.
While he’s known as the White Demon, thanks to becoming a revolutionary, his laziness is almost on par with Spike Speigel.
He’s also one of the funniest characters in anime, with a surreal sense of humor that is incredibly engaging.
However, his skills as a samurai are no joke, and his power and skill as a swordsman make him a force to be reckoned with.
The combination of his talents and fun personality has quickly made Gintoki one of the most popular characters in anime.
14. Eren Yeager (Attack On Titan)
Eren Yeager is a complex protagonist who starts off as a short-tempered young boy with hopes of saving humanity.
However, as he experiences more of the world, his personality takes a darker turn, so much so that fans can’t quite be sure if he’s a true hero or not.
It is this depth and character development that have made him stand out the most, though, and fans can’t get enough.
With the final season of Attack on Titan slated to release in March 2023, fans are eager to see more of Eren and how his story ends.
Although, if it ends anything like the manga, you’ll definitely want to have the tissues ready.
13. Guts (Berserk)
Guts is the perfect example of a dark fantasy anime protagonist, and he is the definition of a tragic hero.
While he has experienced many traumatic events throughout his life, he has also grown throughout the series into an incredibly complex character.
Fans have enjoyed watching him learn to overcome the betrayal of his childhood and become a strong character who’s driven to do better.
His perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity make him an extremely likable character.
No matter what the world throws at him, Guts is willing to face it bravely with a sword in hand.
12. Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist)
Fullmetal Alchemist is widely considered one of the best shonen anime series of all time, and Edward Elric has been a big reason why.
No stranger to being the underdog, Edward is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and he never gives up.
Even after losing an arm and having his brother’s soul trapped in a suit of armor, Edward has never wavered from his goals.
Striving to find the Philosopher’s stone, which he hopes will restore his brother’s body, there are no lengths that he won’t go to.
His drive and dedication make him extremely likable, as does his relationship with his brother Alphonse.
11. Shigeo Kageyama (Mob Psycho)
Known as Mob, Shigeo Kageyama is the main protagonist of Mob Psycho and a powerful esper with incredible psychic powers.
Since his powers are closely linked to his emotions, Mob tries to get himself in check, having previously hurt people accidentally.
A socially awkward individual, Mob is incredibly relatable to many fans, especially given how terrified he is of public speaking.
However, he is full of seemingly endless compassion, even for the villains he fights against, which is a refreshing change from the status quo.
Despite being ridiculously powerful, Shigeo is incredibly down-to-earth, making it almost impossible not to like him.
10. Rintarou Okabe (Steins;Gate)
Half of one of the best anime couples, Rintarou Okabe is the bizarre protagonist of Steins;Gate.
Along with Kurisu Makise, Rintarou is one of the most popular characters in the series, and his eccentric antics only add to his charm.
As the ultimate mad scientist, he is both brilliant and a bit crazy, sometimes laughing at nothing or talking to himself on the phone.
While his flair for the peculiar certainly makes him interesting, the sincerity of his personality is what really endears him to fans.
9. Killua Zoldyck (Hunter X Hunter)
Despite not being the protagonist, Killua Zoldyck steals every scene he’s in, and fans can’t get enough.
While he hails from a family of assassins, Killua has grown to understand the value of human life as his outlook on the world has evolved.
Killua is also best friends with Gon, the pair of them both being exceptionally cheeky and full of mischief.
Although he is a bit ruder than Gon, his humor, quick wit, and infamous sweet tooth have made him incredibly popular with anime fans.
8. Roronoa Zoro (One Piece)
Zoro is one of the most popular anime characters of all time, and he proves that you don’t have to be the star of the show to stand out.
When we first meet him, Zoro is a hot-headed loudmouth with something to prove to everyone around him.
However, he gradually grows throughout the series to become much more level-headed and trustworthy.
His journey toward becoming a master swordsman is incredibly entertaining, and his character arc remains one of the best in the series.
7. Light Yagami (Death Note)
Light Yagami is the villain you can’t help but root for, and his intentions started out as good.
Unfortunately, despite his genius-level intelligence, he gradually loses himself in his quest to create a world without criminals.
Titling himself the God of the New World, Light won’t hesitate to eliminate anyone who would stand in his way.
While fans know he isn’t supposed to be likable, it’s hard not to become invested in his incredibly well-written story.
As one of the strongest anime characters in history, Light is fascinating to watch as he proves the pen can sometimes be mightier than the sword.
6. L Lawliet (Death Note)
Although Death Note wouldn’t be the same without Light Yagami, we have to rank L slightly ahead of him.
L is a brilliant detective, easily keeping pace with Light and outwitting him on many occasions.
While his intelligence is notable, it is his odd habits and quirky sitting postures that immediately made fans gravitate toward him.
Raised to be the world’s greatest detective, there is little L can’t figure out, and his cat-and-mouse game with Light is one of the best in Anime.
5. Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece)
The grandson of one of the best bearded anime characters, Monkey D. Luffy is the beloved captain of the Straw Hat Pirates.
Luffy has charisma for days and the ability to stretch his body to insane proportions.
No matter what comes his way, Luffy finds a way to come out on top, and his determination has made him one of the strongest characters in the series.
Throughout the series, he’s made fans laugh, cry, and cling to the edges of their seats as he finds new adventures to go on.
Not only is he one of the most popular anime characters, but he’s become a cultural icon thanks to his characterization.
4. Levi Ackerman (Attack On Titan)
Captain of the Special Operations squad and Scouting Legion, Levi Ackerman is the ultimate badass of Attack on Titan.
Some of the most intense moments in the series revolve around Levi fighting off enemy soldiers and towering titans.
He also has an incredibly dry sense of humor which never fails to make fans laugh.
Despite not being the protagonist of the series, Levi is by far the most popular character, and he steals the show every time he appears on the screen.
3. Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)
Everyone knows Naruto Uzumaki, who stands out as one of the bigger shonen heroes in anime.
Fans have enjoyed watching his journey from outcast and slack-off to powerful Hokage, and throughout it all, his appeal has never wavered.
Naruto has worked hard to achieve his goals, and he hasn’t let adversity diminish his enthusiastic and boisterous attitude.
What makes him really stand out, though, is that fans have gotten to watch him grow up to become a wise and mature leader.
This character growth, and the fact that there are 720 episodes dedicated to his story, have easily made him one of the most iconic characters in anime history.
2. Goku (Dragon Ball)
Goku has come a long way, and even those who haven’t watched Dragon Ball Z know his face.
This iconic character has been the protagonist of the series for over 30 years, and still, fans can’t get enough of his hilarity and earth-shattering power.
His personality was even so compelling it made Vegeta switch sides, turning him from a villain to an ultimate frenemy!
Fans have gotten to follow Goku’s story since his birth, and so far, his fame has proven as invincible as he is.
With a pure heart and charm for days, Goku remains one of the best and most popular characters in anime.
1. Saitama (One-Punch Man)
Taking our number one spot is a hero who can defeat any enemy with a single punch, much to his disappointment.
While he originally became a hero for fun, he now strives to find any opponent that can really give him a challenge.
Although his power has made him jaded, his unassuming personality makes him a riot to watch.
Like his loyal disciple, Genos, fans keep coming back for more, and it’s hard not to become invested in Saitama’s hilarious antics.
Fortunately, with One Punch Man season 3 confirmed, fans won’t have to wait much longer to see more of Saitama in action.
Anime is filled with memorable characters, but these 25 have become absolutely iconic.
Anyone who calls themselves an anime fan knows how influential these characters have been, and if you haven’t yet watched their series, you’re missing out.
While time will tell if any new anime protagonists will dethrone any of these titans, we seriously doubt their popularity will fade anytime soon.
Here’s a quick recap of the most popular anime characters of all time:
- Saitama (One-Punch Man)
- Goku (Dragon Ball)
- Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)
- Levi Ackerman (Attack On Titan)
- Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece)
- L Lawliet (Death Note)
- Light Yagami (Death Note)
- Roronoa Zoro (One Piece)
- Killua Zoldyck (Hunter X Hunter)
- Rintarou Okabe (Steins;Gate)
- Shigeo Kageyama (Mob Psycho)
- Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist)
- Guts (Berserk)
- Eren Yeager (Attack On Titan)
- Gintoki Sakata (Gintama)
- Kurisu Makise (Steins;Gate)
- Itachi Uchiha (Naruto)
- Mikasa Ackerman (Attack On Titan)
- Hachiman Hikigaya (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
- Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul)
- Satoru Gojo (Jujutsu Kaisen)
- Lelouch Lamperogue (Code Geass)
- Kakashi Hatake (Naruto)
- Rem (Re:Zero)
- Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)
Who is your favorite anime character? Let us know in a comment!
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