A sight of people waiting on the sidewalk in Japan at night
Learning how to draw anime is not something you can master overnight. Unless you're incredibly gifted, you will need guidance, skills, and a creative mind to be good at anime creation (Source: Unsplash)

Anime is the computer animation or/and hand-drawn cartons that emerged from Japan. Japanese anime outlines all the animation-related work, irrespective of the style or origin.

However, in English and outside Japanese anime culture, anime informally refers to the animation composed in Japan.

It is composed of a variety of animations that cover a massive assortment of topics and stories. In addition, there are several production mediums and animation technology available to create anime.

Today anime is enjoyed not only by the people of Japan but also by the rest of the world. This is because streaming platforms have created more anime content in the last year than is precedented.

With its wealth of genres and categories, anime has captured the imagination of a new generation and is more successful in gripping modern audiences.

Not only this but anime is now also streaming in different languages. Therefore, countries and people who didn't have access to it can now consume anime content.

This further facilitates the understandability, acceptance, and reach of Japanese culture. More than that, the culture also contributes to innovative ideas.

In addition, consuming anime content also allows the uninitiated to explore more of Japanese culture. This is because most animes are pretty accurate with their representation of Japanese culture, including the food, people, music, and everyday activities.

In Japan, anime is a widely approved form of art. As a result, masses not only watch anime but also enjoy it thoroughly.

Japan being the capital of anime, originated several of the genres alongside keeping up with the richness of their characters.

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About Anime Characters

Anime characters' bodies are modeled so that they reflect the dimensions of the human body in reality.

Artists sometimes knowingly make certain modifications in the character's body to attain a specific look. These little quirks help viewers establish whether they are watching the protagonist or the antagonist.

A 3D anime character with cool hair and a unique but strange eye make up
One thing that all popular anime characters have in common is fantastic, god-like hair. There has never been a cool anime character without charming hair except for poor bald Saitama (Source: Unsplash)

The usual anime character design includes an exaggerated eye size, making the character more and more attractive. Jokes aside, many people tend to develop crushes on anime characters.

Their hair is unnaturally lively and styled effortlessly while having a variety of hair shades. Goku even uses his hair to depict the amount of power he is channeling!

Moreover, hair movement also adds an extra effect in the overall animation and is often dramatic, emphasizing the action alongside the character's emotions.

After all, what is Japanese anime without cool hair?

What Makes A Great Character?

Firstly, let's talk about characters. What makes a character great? What makes them likable or admirable? And what makes them so memorable that we would watch another anime series – or any other series for that matter – just for the character?

Character, really, is not about cracking funny jokes, being a great warrior, or looking great. All of these things help, for sure – as they bring an immediate interest from the audience – but that's not usually enough to see one through to the end of a series.

And it's certainly not enough to make an audience follow a franchise through five animated series, twenty anime movies, a live-action film, and countless manga series – as is the case with Dragon Ball.

Rather, a good character needs something else. A complexity, a flaw, and a development – but also consistency and recognisability across all media and adaptations.

In some way or another – even in a fantastical story – characters need to be realistic. They need a backstory and a personality, a compelling motivation, and a deeply human element to them. This is why consistency matters because you don't want a character known as being calm and cool than going berserk out of nowhere (just ask the Game of Thrones writers).

Without this, the characters are just a collection of lines spoken, fights had, or movements made. And that ain't going to convince anyone to keep coming back.

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Why Anime Has Great Characters

Anime, fortunately for us, is known for its wonderful characterization. The most iconic characters will remain memorable for years to come – due to their particular aesthetics, their story arcs, their fully-formed personalities, and the moral dilemmas in which they find themselves.

In many ways, this is because – unlike in the West, where animators are seen to work primarily for children – Japanese animation has a very wide audience. This includes all different genders, ages, and demographics.

As such, those working for anime shows and original manga publications ensure that the characters are believable not just for kids but for everyone. And, as such, the whole development of the animes reaches a higher level of seriousness, cleverness, and subtlety.

So, it's worth pointing out that, here, we are looking specifically at the anime from Japanese culture. Whilst we in the west associated anime and manga with Japanese pop culture, in that country, the term applies to any animation production.

This is one of the reasons why anime is so popular in Japan – but read our article for more!

Judging the popular anime characters upon the quality of the writing of the animation can be quite unjust to the nature of the character alone.

A person sticking some stickers of anime characters on the room wall
Most popular anime characters are shown to have gaping personality flaws, making them more like anti-heroes. This is what makes them so interesting and likable. Anime popularity in Japan and across the globe is increasing because of cool characters and extraordinary storytelling (Source: Unsplash)

Moreover, the anime characters are known for their looks. The protagonist will often be a cool, brooding character who may seem tiny and irrelevant but usually end up accomplishing larger-than-life feats.

These characters, irrespective of the gender role they are designated to play, are versatile and rich in terms of the looks they serve and the backstory they are supposed to portray.

Some Of The Favourite Characters From Anime

So, let's get down to it. Who are some of the most interesting characters in the world of anime? And who are some of the iconic from popular anime?

Obviously, there's no correct answer. But let's dive in - in no particular order.

And if you are interested in reading about some of the best anime series in Japan, check out our article on popular anime!

Sakura (Cardcaptor Sakura)

Sakura Kinomoto is the quintessential 'magical girl' character from Japanese anime. As the franchise starts, she is nine and still at school, and she grows the age of twelve throughout the series.

The character of Sakura – or rather, her creators – has been the winner of a number of awards, and the series is primarily built around the relationships that she builds with others. Immediately naïve and frankly silly, we see her to be really not that at all.

Levi Ackerman (Attack on Titan)

Attack on Titan is one of the highest-grossing anime series in Japan – and it is known specifically as a shonen anime, meaning one that is aimed at male teens. However, despite its limited target demographic, it has spread across the world – and has inspired all sorts of political interpretations.

The story revolves around territories inhabited by humans, but which are enclosed by massive walls to protect them against the 'Titans' who live outside.

Levi Ackerman, the 'world's strongest soldier', is a captain in the Survey Corps, the group that, initially, fights the Titans. Yet, he is a little different from most fictionalized strongmen. He is obsessed with cleanliness – and has an angry streak that makes up one of his most interesting flaws.

Shinji (Neon Genesis Evangelion)

Shinji is the main character in the genre-defining franchise Neon Genesis Evangelionone of the most influential anime ever made.

As a young boy, Shinji is forced to pilot a mecha, 'Evangelion,' to fight the Angels that attack a future Tokyo. Understandably, he is not too happy about this decision thrust upon him by his father.

He is one of the most celebrated characters of manga and anime, as he does not conform in the least to the predictable heroic character. Rather, he is a withdrawn, apathetic, and scared high school student. As a result, he has become one of the most compelling characters in anime.

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Goku (Dragon Ball)

Even those people who don't watch anime know the figure of Goku – a character who has developed from a young, superhuman child to an adult throughout the Dragon Ball franchise.

The series – both manga and anime – follow Goku's pursuits to find the Dragon Balls, which grant wishes to those who find them. Yet, his diminutive, childish appearance and overwhelming naivety – a naivety that is reduced but ultimately remains throughout the series – has always been seen as a point of departure from the classic masculine heroes.

A really special, loveable anime character.

Famous Japanese Anime character
Goku, from Dragon Ball. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Edward (Fullmetal Alchemist)

One of the most developed – and another of the most celebrated – characters in the whole of anime is Edward Elric, from the series Fullmetal Alchemist.

Edward, a young man, is seriously wounded in an alchemy experiment intended to resurrect his – and his brother, Alphonse's – mother. What happens instead is that Alphonse's soul becomes trapped in a suit of armor, whilst Edward loses an arm and a leg.

The series proceeds with the two characters searching for the Philosopher's Stone that will return their bodies. Yet, Edward's character is a fully three-dimensional hero, evolving and growing as he comes of age.

Spike (Cowboy Bebop)

Cowboy Bebop is a darker style anime intended for an adult audience – engaging themes such as loneliness and the pain of memory.

Spike Spiegel is the central character, whose fake eye and existential angst give him the flaws that make his character so interesting.

The creators of Cowboy Bebop wanted him to be, first and foremost, cool as hell. And sure, they achieved it.

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Sakata Gintoki (Gintama)

Gintama is the story of a freelance (read, 'unemployed') samurai, Gintoki, who fights the aliens who have occupied eighteenth-century Japan.

He is an incredibly complex character, with problems with his blood sugar levels, a certain crankiness, and a brilliant talent with a sword.

Ashitaka (Princess Mononoke)

A character who, from the very beginning of this best-selling film from Studio Ghibli, is burdened by the impending threat of death, Ashitaka is an exercise in self-sacrifice and personal resolve.

A long-suffering leader, Ashitaka is really just a young man lead by a sense of duty – and it makes him one of the most compelling and original characters in anime.

Check out the different Japanese lessons on Superprof.

Popular anime character
Astro Boy is the most iconic anime character (Source: Unsplash)

Astro Boy

Osamu Tezuka invented anime's recognizable art style: large eyes and wacky hair. And he did it with the character of Astro Boy, or Mighty Atom, who was the title character of the first most popular anime series.

He is one of the great anime characters of all time due to his iconic aesthetic and his moral struggles. A pacifist robot with human emotions who is forced to fight, Astro Boy's character is one of self-effacement, compassion, and self-sacrifice.

Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass: Lelouch Of The Rebellion)

Lelouch is a 17-year-old male character, having a height of 178 cm (5'10). Lelouch portrays the main lead for the anime series Code Geass.

His character includes the role of a prince, an emperor, a student, and a terrorist. Besides being a complex character structured tightly, Lelouch is a clever individual who is also arrogant due to his noble upbringing.

During Lelouch's school life, he perceives himself as a friendly, likable, and easy-to-approach student who never really cared for school work and related assignments, as he saw all this as trivial.

Lelouch enjoys countering challenges and is often seen playing chess which is against his nobility and prestige. However, on the other side of Lelouch's personality, he strongly dislikes the nobles.

Many individuals have noticed Lelouch as being impudently selfish with the desire to avenge his mother's death. In contrast, he is also quite compassionate towards the people he loves.

Seeing what type of man Lelouch turns out to be is enough to consume fans into the human drama and deep moral analysis.

L Lawliet (Death Note)

Next on the list is L, from the 'Death Note' series. L matures to be the world's greatest detective, and he has this quirt that allows him to speak to the world only through his assistant Watari.

The relationship between Watari and L mirrors the interactions between Batman and Alfred. Hence, it is quite relatable.

L never discloses his appearance to the world and instead chooses to represent himself with a capital L, which is also the initial of his name.

Even in group missions, the siding teams do not know his original name, while his personality also leaves a lot to the imagination. L's untidy appearance marks his extraordinary powers of intuition and also portrays his insight.

The character also tends to make accurate estimations of occurring events and so is exceptionally meticulous while analyzing.

Besides having almost perfect physical elements, including a decent height of 179 cm (5'10), L leaves behind an impression which adds to the interest of an already captivating suspense series.

Lastly, L is the quintessential manga poster boy. When Death Note came out, it took the world by storm, leading to L becoming one of the most famous anime characters.

Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece)

Luffy from the show 'One Piece' enters this list as the third most famous anime character of all time. Monkey D Luffy is the captain of Straw Hat Pirates, a rag-tag group of misfits trying to reach the Grand Line.

In the beginning, Luffy seems like the butt of every joke and isn't the smartest in the room. He was also often seen engaged in childish activities and childlike behavior.

Luffy seems to have an unstoppable hunger which contributes to comic relief in the show. However, that is cleverly backdropped by his sense of unshakeable determination, an optimistic approach, and devotion towards his relationships.

Luffy can also withstand anything for his friends, as he has great courage and incredible strength. As the protagonist, his dream is to find 'One Piece' and become the pirate king.

And like any other anime lead character, he is pretty determined towards his dream.

No other member of his team holds a more lively personality than the captain himself. Luffy made his fans cry, roll on the floor laughing, and even made them stare in awe.

The character is simply hard to hate, as his mannerisms and personality promote tolerance, determination, love, and an unrelenting desire to succeed.

Ryuk The Shinigami (Death Note)

Another character from Death Note makes it to this list because of his memorable depiction, exceptional voice acting, and iconic silhouette.

Ryuk is a Shinigami (god of death), or in American terminology, he could also be known as the grim reaper. He was among many of his kind, banished to the netherworlds, surviving by killing humans.

Ryuk is considered such an impactful anime character because of his visually terrifying structure coupled with an oddly whimsical attitude. Once you see him, you won’t forget him!

He stood by Light Yagami’s side, watching and helping as Light fell further and further into a rabbit hole of his own blood-sucking power.

Spoiler Alert: Perhaps the one reason Ryuk is beloved by many is that when Light finally lost it, Ryuk was unphased, and carried out his responsibility, ultimately ending the life of someone we thought was his best friend.

Rintarou Okabe (Steins; Gate)

The last anime character for this discussion is Rintarou, who is also commonly known as Okarin. He is a major protagonist of Steins; the Gate series and a self-proclaimed scientist.

Okarin is a quirky character who had poor social skills. However, he always looks after others and makes sure to lend a helping hand to even those he never met before.

Okarin's height is 177 cm (5'10), and he is bounding to join Future Gadget Lab. Unfortunately, although he is brilliant, he tends to be easily deceived by others.

Okarin, the mad scientist, works against an organization which he thinks is after him. Furthermore, this image gives the character a specific aura and a mystery that fans are compelled to follow.

However, as the story proceeds, this seems to disappear. Okarin gives out an impression of being suspicious and delusional.

In addition, the character shows an uncommon, almost unique trail of mannerism, such as engaging himself in the fits of crazed laughter and talking to himself on the phone.

Learn How To Become A Part Of The Anime World With Superprof

The variety and depth in anime characters provide us a glimpse of how rich and full of immense entertainment animes are.

The anime characters, their backstories, and their distinct personalities are just some of the million reasons to start watching anime.

Artists have even started creating comics or short animated movies using different characters from different anime series. This is known as fan fiction

This is a real treat for any anime fan to watch their favorite characters collide in an independent, unbounded crossover story.

If you happen to be an anime fan or want to know more about anime creation, we have just the thing for you.

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They not only teach you how to draw anime but also how to make it exciting and inspiring.

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