What makes anime so exciting and so popular across the globe?

Anime has a characteristic style, complex storylines and has created some of the most interesting genres. But the characters in anime are also out of this world, which is another fundamental reason why this form of entertainment has continued to grow in Japan and across the globe.

With over 35 000 anime produced, there’s certainly no shortage of characters to pick and choose from. Anime is passionately supported by millions of fans across the globe and every anime follower will have their own favourite characters who they will passionately defend.

This article is for the newcomers to anime. It will give you some idea of how diverse the characters are and what you can watch and, in the process, you'll learn why the world of anime is a colourful introduction to Japanese culture.

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What Makes a Character Memorable?

Whether you are new to anime or not, you’ve most certainly met a character in a film or series that captured your heart, got your upset or scared the living daylights out of you.

No story can function without a good protagonist, a compelling plot and a couple of challenges or drama to craft the character of our hero. Many people study for years to become good writers. They learn all about creating captivating plots with twists through the effective application of character-driven stories.

Every writer wants to create characters that has an emotional effect on the viewer and a lot of characters gain their initial popularity through their looks or general appeal. The trick to creating a strong and good character is however, to create one that people can relate to. One that is as complex and flawed, just as we are. With potential and dreams, but must become a greater person during the development of the story.

Many artists and characters contributed to anime to be what it is today, and you can learn about the Japanese pioneers that created this recognisable art form in our article on the history of anime.

Sakura, from anime, Cardcaptor Sakura
Just watch season 1 and one of the Naruto movie series and you'll understand why she is the type of 'magic girl' with power, light and love.

Why Anime Characters are so Great?

Iconic characters make a lasting impression.

They stay with us, and anime makes it easy to make it feel like we know the characters personally. We buy into them, like them and then suddenly they face the most unimaginable horrors and drama to craft their skills and character.

With anime this process is a bit more complex and colourful. Anime is all about imagination and it is usually not bound by CGI or effects.

The artist can imagine and create anything. It’s not only true for the character, but also the world in which they find themselves in.

In Japan manga comics are created first, and once the characters become popular, the stories are developed into more commercial series or films. This way it’s almost guaranteed that the character will be a hit in the first season or movie. The animation world also allows us to give a normal human some magical or technical qualities, skills or superpowers we always dreamed of.

Anime is also created for a whole range of audiences from different age groups and interests. The Japanese created some self-defining genres through their anime like robots and inanimate characters with human qualities, strong features and character traits usually associated with strong characters.

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Not Just a Girl or a Guy Hero

The concept of archetypes is as old as human mythology. Joseph Campbell did some significant work around classifying archetypes and the function they serve in telling stories.

Anime was also quite definitive in creating different archetypes, but the list is a lot broader than the ones we got to know through modern stories and even mythology. In anime the concept of ‘dere’ is used to classify characters according to similar traits and behaviours.

Tsundere

Probably the most common archetype in anime and manga is Tsundere. They have hard exteriors and can be aggressive to their love interest, until they receive the attention they seek, and turn and become embarrassed. Like most characters they can be both male and female, but the female form is generally more popular.

Some of the best examples from Animation series and films are:

  • Asuka Langley – Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • Erza Scarlet – Fairy Tail
  • Jotaro Kujo – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
  • Levi Ackerman – Attack on Titan
  • Kyo Sohma – Fruits Basket
  • Saitama - One-Punch Man

Dandere

Generally labelled as shy and introverted, dandere characters always keep their distance, are initially non-emotionally involved and certainly not popular. These characters become something beautiful and colourful the moment they get the right love and affection from someone needed to unlock their kind, pure and intelligent nature.

Great examples from films and series are:

  • Hinata Hyuga – Naruto
  • Tsukimi Kurashita – Princess Jellyfish
  • Crona – Soul Eater
  • Ami Mizuno – Sailor Moon

Kuudere

These characters are also popular in the anime world and appear to be unemotional from the outside. They usually seem much more confident, cold and aloof than the other character types. This is a front, however, and they are quite vulnerable, displaying their soft souls once they get the affection of a loved one. These are characters with depth that will radiate the warmth that most anime fans fall in love with.

Some Kuudere from series and films are:

  • Piccolo - Dragon Ball
  • Rei Ayanami – Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • Shoto Torodoki – My Hero Academia
  • Annie Leonhardt – Attack on Titan

Yandere

The Yandere is a character type that features selectively in anime. It combines mental obsession and love to create a character that will do anything for their love interest ... ANYTHING. They appear warm and loving on the outside, but their obsessive nature will push them to the edge, causing them to do the unthinkable and use manipulation and violence to get what they want.

Examples of Yandere characters are:

  • Akane Hiyama – Love Tyrant
  • Rolo Lamperogue – Code Geass: Lelouch of the rebellion
  • Misa Amane – Death Note
  • Satou Matsuzaka – Happy Sugar Life

Kamidere

Kami means ‘god’ in Japanese and these characters have a god complex and expect everyone to revere them because of their talents. Some of them have a more respectful approach while others demand respect through arrogant and narcissistic behaviour.

Maybe one of these could become your favourite character:

  • Light Yagami – Death Note
  • Father – Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • Lelouch Lamperogue – Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
  • Akihiko Kayaba – Sword Art Online
  • Doctor Genius – One Punch Man

There are an estimated 12 different deres in anime, and passionate fans will go through much debate to classify them. We covered only some of the deres and if this interests you, you can explore characters from archetypes like Himidere, Deredere, Goudere, Bakadere, Sadodere, Hiyakasudere and Shundere.

Our Three Favourite Characters of All Time

Super Saiyan Blue Goku parade float
Goku from Dragon Ball. - Source: Unsplash

It can be quite tricky to compile a list of the best characters in a world where fans can become yandere characters themselves to defend the honour of their personal favourites. It is however important to highlight that there is something for everyone, with hundreds of characters to suit all types and ages.

We’ve highlighted three characters from milestone series who are fundamental to the popularity of anime.

Goku (Dragon Ball)

Son Goku is the protagonist in in one of the most successful manga and anime series of all time. He was one of the over 500 characters that were brought to life by Toei Animation in the highest grossing franchise from 1986 to 1996.

He is greatly loved and a special character with a diminutive, innocent appearance. Goku is naïve and grows up from one season to the next to become a different type of hero to the classic masculine heroes before his time. His iconic appearance also set standards for the industry, and some consider him as one of the greatest characters of all time.

Pikachu (Pokémon)

Most of us know Pokémon and the thousands of popular characters that created anime fans for life. This is one of the biggest anime successes based on video games and one of the most loved mascots is Pikachu, an electric type of Pokémon.

He goes through all the trials and tribulations with Ash Ketchum, the protagonist and Pokémon master in the series and subsequent films. Together with Pikachu, they form one of the favourite character duos to conquer the anime world.

Astro Boy

Astro Boy, also called Mighty Atom, was one of the characters who paved the way for the distinctive style we know as Japanese anime, with emotive characters, big eyes and wacky hair.

Osamu Tezuka is a legendary name in the creation of anime and Astro boy was one of the first great anime characters of all time due to the moral struggles he needs to confront. A pacifist robot with an iconic aesthetic, this character is one who is forced to fight but is grounded by his compassion, self-sacrifice and self-effacement.

Let us know who your favourite is and why.

More Series to Discover Characters

Some anime comes with a list of characters who have great power, new characteristic features and more drama with each season. The best way to discover characters is to dive into your first series loaded with heroes of all types; girl, guy, fairy, hunter, etc.

Read this article to learn more about some of the most popular anime films and series or explore a movie or season series from the below list:

  • Naruto
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • Attack on Titan
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
  • My Hero Academia
  • Sword Art Online (banned in some countries due to violence towards woman) OR Sword Art offline
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
  • Bungou Stray Dogs
  • Hidden leaf village
  • Death Note Rewrite
  • Seven deadly sins (Season 1 - 5)

Hopefully this article has you excited about anime, the greatest characters and the series people love all over the world.

Do you have creativity and some characters locked inside of you?

You can learn to draw your own characters and test them through the art of manga. Who knows, you might become part of a team to create African animated series one day.  Contact one of our Superprof drawing tutors today to bring your inner superheroes to life through drawing.

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Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.