Shonen anime isn’t complete without its share of swordsmen (and -women), and these are some of the best to grace the small screen.
In order to introduce the globe to Japanese media’s inventiveness, anime action is a must-have. Fan culture has been defined by the epic conflicts of retribution, competition, and power fought over the course of the series. There is a lot of action in anime, and it is often centered on swordfights between anime swordsmen, masters of an obscure, mid-range martial art that is characterized by Kurosawa-style noble warriors, epic battles, and ridiculous displays of power that shouldn’t be possible with just one piece of steel!
Sword-wielding anime characters are endearing and stoic in part because of the simplicity of their weapons and the calm humanity that comes with them. For the sake of honoring the great art of swordsmanship, this list will feature the best swordsmen ever drawn in anime.
Sean Cubillas updated this page on April 20th, 2021. There’s always a bigger sword out there for anime sword fighters. As long as a blade has something to clash with, it’s useless. And in anime, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Since this list was last updated, not much has changed, but the growing diversity of sword fighters needs to be acknowledged. People are more desperate than ever to find a cause for which to fight. Why not take a cue from the best in the business?
1. Levi Ackerman (Attack On Titan)
When it comes to swordfighting, the characters in Attack on Titan have done something unique: they’ve reimagined the sport entirely! Typically, swordfights are fought in close quarters with elegance; but, in Attack on Titan, the swordsmen practically fling themselves at their targets in order to slay their enemies.
And, in the dreadful world of Attack on Titan, only Levi Ackerman is revered and feared. The tactical intellect and blade proficiency of Levi, despite his little stature, can more than equal the playing field against the Titans and his companions.
2. Tanjiro Kamado (Demon Slayer)
Tanjiro Kamado, a new and lovable face in the animated samurai world, has quickly become a worldwide sensation. Additionally, Tanjiro is a humble, ambitious underdog who has managed to shock and inspire everyone with his heroic battles against the most heinous of crimes.
One of his advantages is that he’s spent years honing his sword’s skills against a variety of fanciful and demonic opponents. Tanjiro has established himself as a go-to samurai for everyone with an elegance and strength that would impress even the most ardent Akira Kurosawa fans.
3. Akame (Akame Ga Kill!)
In Akame Ga Kill!, the titular assassin, Akame has the particular ability to sever the life force of any living thing she comes into contact with. A lethal curse can be injected into anyone she cuts with her Murasame blade.
No matter what her opponents throw at her, she will always come out victorious thanks to Akame’s uncanny agility and quickness of strike, even if she didn’t have the curse. It’s actually a good thing that her adversaries can’t see how deadly she truly is because of Murasame.
4. Erza Scarlett (Fairy Tail)
Natsu Dragneel is considered the primary character by some Fairy Tail fans. Others believe it’s Lucy Heartfelia. Fairy Tail’s real star, however, is none other than Erza Scarlett, a.k.a. Titania, according to the media hype. Erza is more than just a swordsman, however. She’s adept at using a variety of weapons to fight against rogue wizards and demons, thanks to her powers.
Her skill with a blade, on the other hand, has been demonstrated repeatedly. There are instances when her sword abilities are so good that she doesn’t need to wear any kind of armor at all.
5. Afro Samurai (Afro Samurai)
Afro Samurai may be remembered as the anime with Samuel L. Jackson, but the sheer quantity of anime action, especially in relation to the series’ titular character, should never be underestimated. Afro, the clever and vengeful samurai out to revenge his father and become the best fighter in the world, is colder than the blade he wields and more forceful than Sam Jackson’s voice.
Because everyone else is trying to dethrone him, it doesn’t help. Because of the numerous chances to demonstrate his lethal abilities, Afro is clearly one of the most impressive anime samurai ever.
6. Kirito (Sword Art Online)
A YouTube video of a person practicing lightsaber battles with a broom has long been considered the archetypal internet swordfighter. In spite of this, Kirito managed to restore some of the nerdy, samurai-style respect to the nerdy, swordfighting techniques. He rose to the pinnacle of SAO dominance, fulfilling the long-held power fantasy of many role-playing game enthusiasts.
Kirito has gained the rare Dual Blades ability, defeated boss level nightmares like the Gleam Eyes, and rapidly dispatched some of the gaming community’s worst like a hero.
7. Sakata Gintoki (Gintama)
Even though Gintama is a hilarious romp, it’s important not to overlook Sakata Gintoki’s legendary status as a samurai. During the Joi War, he became known as the “White Yaksha” because he single-handedly wiped off Amanto hordes.
The wooden Lake Toya sword Gin wields, while having put down his steel sword, is just as deadly as the Shinsengumi’s steel blade, and he can slash through enormous robots with it. Not to mention his epic clashes against Yato King Hosen, Oboro or Takasugi, violent exhibitions of cartoon combat that force a big change from fart jokes.
8. Clare (Claymore)
Swordsmen aren’t always the best swordsmen. A troop of female demon-hunting knights, known as Claymore, is Clare’s unit of choice. Because of their training, these females are capable of taking on the superhuman feats required of battling voracious, Yoma-infected threats to humanity.
Clare is a cold, calculating Claymore who uses her brains and unfathomable ingenuity to take on monsters far above her level, which is saying something considering she is considered among the Claymore’s weakest. In spite of this, Clare has been able to walk alongside and compete against some of the world’s best Claymore.
9. Saber (Fate Series)
Saber, King Arthur and other English swordswomen are all examples of women who are capable of chopping devils in two, four, and eight. Saber has demonstrated time and time again that he is an excellent choice for the Holy Grail Wars, armed with a powerful greatsword, amazing miracles, and training that rivals the best in history.
In addition to her swordplay, Saber is a prominent player in the game because of her extensive war experience, which gives her the ability to take on an enemy even while they are not on the battlefield. It is clear that Saber has earned her Fate class as an all-around honorable warrior.
10. Mugen (Samurai Champloo)
In the tradition of the samurai, Mugen exemplifies a fierce, freestyle fighter who is equally adept at avoiding an opponent’s attacks as he is at unleashing surprise attacks of his own.
Showcasing some of the best movements ever seen on both the battlefield and the dance floor, this vagabond’s nasty, sleazy style somehow manages to mix martial arts and swordplay with hip-hop breakdancing. Mugen is one of the most dangerous samurai in the world, thanks to his jittery personality and a smattering of dirty tricks.
11. Hyakkimaru (Dororo)
Hyakkimaru’s ability to beat someone with one hand tied behind his back is a step up from that. While serving as an innocent victim in his father’s quest to establish wealth and power in the region, Hyakkimaru had his body dismembered from an early age by numerous demons.
Resurrected from the dead, Hyakkimaru used his heightened senses and ability to discern people’s true nature as a guide to a superhuman level of sword fighting expertise in the hunt for the demonic souls that had taken his body. At one point, even the blades of his prosthetic arms came out for him to use in his attacks. Hyakkimaru’s path is littered with the corpses of enemies he’s slain, be they samurai or demons.
12. Ichigo Kurasaki (Bleach)
Without mentioning everyone’s favorite teenage hottie and substitute soul reaper, this list would be incomplete. It is well-known that Ichigo Kurasaki, and Bleach as a whole, combine the graceful swordplay of Kurosawa with the enormous Shonen power of a Dragon Ball character.
Is Ichigo the ultimate powerhouse in Bleach’s world? He’s got the talents of a Soul Reaper and more. Aside from the epic battles with his sword Zangetsu, Ichigo has also participated in some of the most thrilling action films of the Shonen genre with all of the above as a tool. Bankai!
13. Guts (Berserk)
Guts was a mighty, unholy force to be reckoned with even before the Berserker armor or demon blood flooded his rage. Guts is never one to show off, so he always carries around his enormous broadsword and swings it wildly whenever a fly even flies by.
To cope with the stress of living in Berserk’s environment, Guts has a history of tearing people and beasts into tiny confetti-like fragments and has done it repeatedly against large waves of foes. A serious threat to the Gods of his planet, Guts’ heavy metal costume makes him even more terrifying. He proves to everyone around him who really does wield the greatest sword.
14. Himura Kenshin (Rurouni Kenshin)
As the top of this list approaches, we come to possibly the most well-known and influential anime swordsmen. Kenshin Himura originally served his feudal lord as a “rurouni,” or “sad ronin,” who now roams the land as a “rurouni” (think of, like, a sadder ronin) in an effort to rectify his past transgressions and safeguard the land. He may appear nice, but Kenshin should not be overlooked despite his apparent lack of aggression.
In the course of his samurai career, he has managed to pull off some of the most legendary feats in anime, like lightning-fast slashes and slicing through pure steel with such precision that the limbs can be reattached. To get on this guy’s bad side is to unleash a monstrous beast that will assure you won’t be seeing him for very long, if at all.
15. Hawkeye Mihawk (One Piece)
Who else could make it to the top of this list other than someone who has been referred to as the World’s Greatest Swordsman? Despite the fact that there are many talented swordsmen in One Piece’s world (apologies to Roronoa Zoro), Mihawk had to make this list due to his status and insurmountable feats within the show. Zoro is well-known for his ability to cut through a variety of objects, but in One Piece: Stampede, Mihawk shows that he can also perform Zoro’s cuts from a greater distance.
A simple dagger is more than enough to take on even the most seasoned samurai, and he doesn’t even need a large or powerful sword to do so. The Yoru, on the other hand, can be used as a baton by Mihawk when he pulls it out to defend himself.