All anime fans throughout the world recognize these characters, no matter how long ago their series started.
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Being remembered for more than a single occurrence is what it means to be iconic. To be able to stand the test of time, one must be durable Being a member of something so significant that it alters the way everything is done afterward is what it means to be a part of it. This can be a character from a series that has spawned numerous clones, or it can be a genre that has been popularized.
Even the term “iconic” has a nebulous meaning that can change from country to country. Even in the United States, there are several characters and shows that have never been popular in Japan. Some characters, on the other hand, are universally popular, with both niche and mainstream devotees.
1. Yugi Is The King Of Games (Yu-Gi-Oh!)
As one of the best-known and most popular anime series of the decade, Yu-Gi-Oh! Everyone has seen at least one episode and understands what “activating your trap card” means when someone says it. For twenty years and counting, Yu-Gi-Oh! has been one of the world’s most popular card games and the subject of a popular manga series in Shonen Jump.
Yugi and Atem, the film’s two leading men, played a significant role in this. Atem, on the other hand, was a ruthless enforcer who sprung into action if things got out of hand. One of the best dub voices in anime, they worked wonderfully together.
2. Amuro Ray Is The Original Gundam Protagonist (Mobile Suit Gundam)
Amuro Ray is the genre’s defining mecha hero. However, Gundam was an entirely new concept, even if mecha had been around for many years before to Amuro. Mecha anime was reimagined as a story about man’s war against himself, and the enormous robots became more like mass-produced weapons. Amuro Ray, a brilliant kid who was stranded on White Base, became the series’ central character for fans.
3. Roy Mustang’s Character Development Made Him A Compelling Watch (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
Even though Edward Elric is a cool dude, it’s hard not to remember Roy Mustang. His capacity to turn from a comic character to a serious one was what made him a captivating three-dimensional hero that fans fell in love with from the original 2003 series to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and it was this skill that made him so popular.
4. Spike Spiegel Is The Epitome Of Cool (Cowboy Bebop)
A bounty hunter on the Bebop, a spaceship that travels around the solar system, Spike Spiegel is on a mission to take down as many as possible to keep the ship afloat and the crew fed. The fact that Adult Swim has aired Cowboy Bebop for so long means that it has been watched by many different generations of anime fans throughout the years, making it a classic.
The fact that Spike is such an endearing lead character—casual yet capable of dealing with any crisis—only adds to the appeal. Even if he tries to play it cool, it’s clear that he has some issues from his past that are just waiting to come back to haunt him.
5. Kirito Is The Protagonist That Put Isekai On The Map (Sword Art Online)
One and only one Kirito has appeared, despite the plethora of impersonations. Isekai protagonists are defined by the character, who pioneered the trend of normalizing overpowering protagonists. Aside from that, the popularity of Sword Art Online has helped establish the most popular anime genre in the recent decade. That’s what it means to be iconic, and Kirito was the series’ protagonist throughout. He’s adored by all the female characters within a mile of him, not just his followers.
6. Luffy Has Been Going Strong For Over Twenty Years (One Piece)
One of Goku’s few challengers for the title of most beloved shonen hero is Luffy, the show’s protagonist. One Piece’s epic saga of a pirate king’s journey to find the One Piece and uncover the One Piece has been going on for decades.
The combination of Luffy’s tenacity and willingness to stick by his pals, no matter how grave the circumstances, makes him such an endearing figure. He is one of few characters in the series who routinely wins the popularity polls.
7. Yusuke Is The Original Bad Boy Shonen Hero (Yu Yu Hakusho)
There are only a few shonen protagonists who aren’t just clones of Goku. He’s neither stupid or naïve, and his purpose isn’t to constantly battle greater opponents. He’s sarcastic and would fight dirty if necessary, but he’d much rather not engage in combat at all.
His infamous smack-talk is what makes him so remarkable. In contrast to most protagonists who want to remain above the fray, Yusuke revels in telling his adversaries how jerks they are during their fight.
8. Naruto Is A Hero Fans Watched Grow Up (Naruto)
Naruto Uzumaki, one of the “Big 3” shonen action anime characters in the West, told the narrative of a young man driven by a single purpose and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. Even while Naruto and Luffy have many similarities, there is one major difference: Naruto fulfilled his aim.
As Hokage in the current stories, he gives fans the closure they had been seeking for after more than a decade of reading and watching the anime. Even though he’s a hero in the mold of Goku, the thing that sets him apart is his desire to be acknowledged as a skilled ninja rather than a fighter.
9. Lupin Is The Original Gentleman Thief, Staying One Step Ahead Of Everyone (Lupin III)
Lupin, the gentleman thief from the 1970s, is still going strong today. Arsene Lupin’s grandson, he is the world’s most wanted criminal in the series. Inspector Zenigata is the only one standing in the way of his increasingly ludicrous heists. Lupin’s intellect is always the driving force behind their success in stealing the treasure and evading the police.
10. Goku Is One Of The Most Well-Known Anime Protagonists Of All Time (Dragon Ball)
People begged Nintendo to include Goku in Smash Bros. because he is so well-known. Outside of Japan, he’s the most recognizable face of anime, second only to Pikachu. Throughout Dragon Ball Z and its sequels, fans have seen him mature from a child to a man with a family. In the decades since his debut, only a handful of characters have become successful without being a lot like him. He was the prototypical male shonen protagonist.