Judging a Japanese anime series isn’t always about the quality of its writing or animation. Often, fans engage in popularity contests to decide which anime characters are the best. Intriguing, well-designed characters can be defining, turning a mediocre anime series into a truly unforgettable one with their sheer star power. Some of the most loved anime characters perfectly personify the best parts of their series, while others are masters of stealing the spotlight.
In the spirit of a popularity contest, MyAnimeList is a great way to gauge which famous anime characters fans prefer at any given time. It’s a reliable way to cut out all the extra noise and determine which characters are the “coolest of the cool.”
Update on October 5th, 2023 by Louis Kemner: Let’s meet a few more of the best and most popular anime characters of all time, and see what kind of characters made it into MyAnimeList’s top anime characters of all time. Plenty of familiar faces are in there, along with some relatively obscure but highly compelling hidden-gem characters who are a delight for anime fans to meet.
50 Makima (Chainsaw Man)
Makima is a classic example of a “bad girl” waifu whom anime fans love even if she is mysterious, eerie, and incredibly dangerous. Chainsaw Man is a refreshing read/watch because of its unique approach to female characters, making them charmingly flawed and emphasizing their personalities and not their perfect looks.
From the start, Makima has been Denji’s benefactor and almost a foster mother, but there’s been something off about her the whole time. Anime fans are eager to see what Makima’s true nature and goals are, and manga readers already know the full truth of this character — and still love her as a brutal villain waifu.
49 Alucard (Hellsing)
Alucard is the infamous vampire powerhouse from the seinen Hellsing manga/anime series. He’s the very model of a compelling antihero, a sinister and merciless warrior who fights his own kind on behalf of the Hellsing Organization while having no sentimentality whatsoever. He might make an exception for his protege Seras Victoria, however, since he feels somewhat protective of her.
Alucard is one of the most popular anime characters of all time because he is overpowered in such an engaging way. Even if his fights are predictably easy, it’s still fun to watch Alucard taunt his enemies and toy with them, then crush them without even releasing his full power.
48 Sasuke Uchiha (Naruto)
Sasuke Uchiha is often viewed as the ultimate shonen rival character, being the gifted, angsty counterpart to protagonist Naruto Uzumaki. Sasuke made a strong impression from the start as a skilled ninja who often showed Naruto up, yet they still formed a robust rivalry and pushed each other to get even stronger.
Sasuke’s real story arc began when he went rogue to obtain more power with Orochimaru, breaking his bond with Naruto and the rest of Team 7 in the process. From there, Sasuke blurred the line between antihero and villain, losing himself to the darkness until he reunited with Team 7 near the story’s end.
47 Koyomi Araragi (Bakemonogatari)
Koyomi Araragi is the overall protagonist of the entire Monogatari franchise and is the most commonly used narrator as well. His high school life was turned upside down when the vampire Shinobu Oshino attacked, and he’s had a connection to her ever since. Koyomi regularly feeds her his blood, and in exchange, he has some vampiric powers, such as regeneration.
Personally, Koyomi is a loner who rejects friendship, though the exact reasons for this seem to vary. In one case, Koyomi rejected friendship to avoid getting hurt if his friends were hurt, suggesting he views empathy as a weakness. Another time, Koyomi claimed he avoids friendships because he’d rather not have a popular opinion warp his view of reality and truth.
46 Yuno Gasai (Future Diary)
Yuno Gasai is the quintessential yandere anime character, or an obsessive lover who resorts to stalking and even violence to keep other people away from the object of their affection. Yuno has it all, from her falsely sweet exterior and monstrous interior to her habit of carrying around weapons and her jealous streak.
Yuno’s love interest is Yukitaru, and she will say or do anything to make him love her and keep everyone else away. Ironically, Yuno was named after Juno, the Roman goddess of femininity and motherhood, but there’s nothing gentle and motherly about Yuno the yandere. Still, despite her extreme behavior, Yuno Gasai is one of the anime community’s favorite characters, a reminder that there will always be an audience for bad girls like her.
45 Asuna Yuuki (Sword Art Online)
Asuna Yuuki is the co-star of Sword Art Online, and in many ways, she is more compelling than Kirito himself. Asuna feels less like a self-insert for a teenage anime fan and feels more like the wholesome best friend she is. It’s because of her help that Kirito ever made it out of the digital world of Aincrad.
Asuna got even better over time and endeared herself to fans as one of the best anime characters in isekai in many ways. She did need rescuing once, but then she returned the favor for Kirito in a big way, and she was also a fantastic mother figure and best friend for Yui.
44 Sanji Vinsmoke (One Piece)
A variety of One Piece heroes rank among the most popular anime characters of all time, including prominent Straw Hat crew members like Sanji Vinsmoke. He’s a martial artist and a dedicated chef who’s determined to find the All Blue someday, but in the meantime, he’s simply glad to be in Luffy’s crew and nurses a rivalry with Roronoa Zoro.
Sanji won over countless One Piece fans with his goofy womanizing ways, and he’s always delighted to meet beautiful girls like Nico Robin, princess Nefeltari Vivi, and the mermaid Shirahoshi, among others. Fans also adore Sanji’s food-themed kick attacks and his tough, cool-guy attitude with his suit and cigarettes in most story arcs.
43 Eikichi Onizuka (Great Teacher Onizuka)
Eikichi Onizuka ranks among the most popular anime characters not because of any magical powers or epic quests to save the world, but because of his sheer coolness factor and his earthly wisdom. Eikichi may be a punk delinquent turned teacher, but he does have some valuable life lessons to teach his students in class 3-4.
Eikichi may have a perverted streak and is highly unorthodox as a teacher, but anime fans still love him because he feels relatable as a lost young man trying to make something better of himself, albeit slowly. There’s also the charming novelty of a wacky punk becoming a teacher and barely knowing what he’s doing in that role.
42 Saber (Fate Franchise)
Saber is a major character in the overall Fate franchise. She is one of many mythical heroes whom the main characters can summon to fight by their side over the Holy Grail, and she is definitely one of the strongest and noblest of them all, too. After all, Saber is a gender-bent King Arthur, and she has a reputation to live up to.
In various Fate anime and novel storylines, Saber fought alongside and against all manner of characters, and was even a love interest for Shiro Emiya in one of them. In battle, Saber is an expert with the sword Excalibur, which is usually invisible and has a wind-based blade.
41 Taiga Aisaka (Toradora!)
Taiga Aisaka is the co-star of the popular romantic comedy Toradora!, where she and protagonist Ryuji Takasu begin the story having a crush on each other’s friend, only to gradually fall in love with each other instead. Taiga didn’t seem that likable at first as a brash tsundere, but then anime fans got to know her more intimately.
Taiga Aisaka was far more vulnerable than her tough, tiger-like exterior ever suggested, and Ryuji saw that for himself. Despite his and Taiga’s differences, Ryuji vowed to support and help her, and for that, Taiga was immensely grateful and came to truly appreciate him in every way that mattered.
40 Shinobu Oshino (Bakemonogatari)
Shinobu Oshino of Bakemonogatari fame is one of the most popular vampire anime characters out there. She was also the protagonist of several different story arcs and is connected to some of the series’ most beloved characters, including Meme Oshino at the Eikou Cram School and Kiyomi Araragi.
Shinobu was once a human being, a princess named Rola, but then she became cursed. Anyone who got too close to her was compelled to take their own life before a powerful vampire turned her into one, too. For now, Shinobu is content to appear as an 8-year-old girl and do without most of her powers.
39 Kamina (Gurren Lagann)
Kamina is easily one of the most popular anime characters who fits the himbo archetype, according to MAL’s data. Kamina may be the “dumb, loud but lovable” type, yet there’s more to him than that. Kamina represents humanity’s oppressed nature and its desire to be free, with Kamina and Simon leading the attack on the Beastmen to reclaim Earth’s surface.
Kamina had strong charisma in Gurren Lagann as the “cool big bro” type, serving as his team’s unofficial leader and the co-pilot of the Gurren Lagann war robot. He left a profound impact on everyone who met him, and after his untimely death, Simon made sure to emulate Simon and carry on his spirit well into the future.
38 Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach)
Bleach protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki didn’t become one of MAL’s most popular anime characters of all time because he came from a “big three” shonen anime. Ichigo’s design makes him stand out from himbo heroes like Luffy, Naruto and Goku, since Ichigo is a tough tsundere punk with a good heart, much like Yusuke Urameshi before him.
Ichigo became a shonen icon with his cool blend of isekai-style adventures, his tough-guy persona, his stylish Soul Reaper powers, and his stubborn determination to protect all his friends at any cost. Ichigo also has unexpected emotional depth, since he’s still wrangling with the grief of his beloved mother’s passing, which hardened his heart’s outer layer.
37 Kiyotaka Ayanokouji (Classroom of the Elite)
Kiyotaka Ayanokouji stands as one of the most popular anime characters to come from a high school anime series — in this case, Classroom of the Elite. He is a 2nd year student at the Advanced Nurturing High School, an unusual institution designed to make sure the sons and daughters of society’s elite get a good education and become hardworking pillars of Japanese society.
What makes Kiyotaka such a popular anime character isn’t his self-insert qualities, but his amusing combination of extreme intelligence and his outward persona as a laid-back, unengaging person. He seems harmless and meek on the outside, but Kiyotaka is a highly insightful person who can manipulate others and get whatever he wants with his brainpower.
36 Osamu Dazai (Bungou Stray Dogs)
Osamu Dazai is one of several Bungou Stray Dogs characters based on a real person — in this case, Osamu Dazai the Japanese author and novelist, who lived from 1909 to 1948. The anime version of this character is also meant to contrast with Bungou Stray Dogs‘ protagonist Atsushi Nakajima.
This popular anime character belongs to the Armed Detective Agency, though he also used to lead an underground organization called the Port Mafia. Osamu is also one of the darkest anime characters, with the bandages on his body representing his fixation on suicide.
35 Violet Evergarden (Violet Evergarden)
Violet Evergarden is a popular and emotionally impactful anime series whose titular heroine, Violet Evergarden herself, is popular among anime fans. Violet survived a dreadful war and lost both arms, so now she has two metal prosthetics so she can work as an Auto Memory Doll.
Violet is a charming but emotionally vulnerable kuudere lady who is determined to help people connect or reconnect with the power of typed letters. She might even be reduced to tears, either happy or sad, after finishing a dictated letter and helping people deliver those letters.
34 Hisoka Morow (Hunter X Hunter)
Hisoka Morow is the antagonist whom Hunter x Hunter fans love to hate and reluctantly love. On one hand, Hisoka is genuinely creepy toward the series’ young hero Gon Freecss and has fought Gon before, but fans still admire Hisoka anyway because there’s more to him than villainy.
Hisoka sometimes defends or helps Gon if he has good reason to, mainly to make sure Gon is strong enough to properly challenge him someday. Hisoka also has a memorable jester-like appearance and a fascinating Nen fighting style based on gum-like properties.
33 Arataka Reigen (Mob Psycho 100)
Anime fans love the dandere protagonist Shigeo Kageyama in Mob Psycho 100, but according to MyAnimeList, they love the secondary character Arataka Reigen even more. Unlike Mob, Reigen has no psychic or supernatural powers, but he makes up for it with clever tricks and sheer charisma.
While Mob is the real psychic powerhouse of the Spirits and Such Consultation Office, Reigen is the suit-wearing businessman in charge, and he makes it look good—and silly. With his sly words and his “fake it till you make it” mentality, Reigen has convinced many clients that he, too, is a master of the arcane.
Colonel Roy Mustang is a major supporting character in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, an ambitious military officer who aspires to lead the entire nation of Amestris one day. He almost lost himself to rage and hatred toward Envy, but his friends pulled him back from the brink, and he learned his lesson.
Roy Mustang has many fans because of his devastating flame alchemy, his charming personality as a good-hearted antihero with a comedic side, and his engaging relationship with other characters. He and Edward often annoyed one another, but Roy was best friends with Maes Hughes, and Riza Hawkeye is special to him, too.
31 Zero Two (Darling In The FranXX)
Zero Two is a fairly popular anime waifu from the mecha anime series Darling in the FranXX. She was introduced as a wild and mysterious girl with pink hair and short red horns, and she quickly latched onto protagonist Zero Two as her darling co-pilot.
Even if anime fans didn’t like the anime’s ending, Zero Two still made a strong impression as an off-beat warrior waifu. Her forceful yet sweet personality secured her position as one of the most popular anime characters out there.