Hello and welcome to the Fullmetal Narcissist Anime blog! I’m your host, Naru the Narcissist, and as I mentioned last week, I’ve been cooking up a list of my top ten favorite anime characters. I should clarify right off the bat that I am not saying these are objectionably good characters, I’m only saying that they’re MY personal favorites. You’re welcome to disagree, and I’d actually love to see you leave your own personal top ten in the comments. And next week, I’ll be posting my LEAST favorite characters!
10: Nino, from Arakawa Under the Bridge
When a female lead in an anime is betrayed by her love interest, she’ll usually get really upset about it. She’ll get angry, run and hide, give them the cold shoulder, or just flat out punch them and call them a pervert. What she won’t do, however, is pull her parka over her head like Cornholio, climb up to the top of a telephone pole, and start hissing. Unless she’s Nino, the beautiful space cadet from the mysterious community of Riverside. And when I say space cadet, there’s a very real chance I mean that literally, as she wholeheartedly believes herself to be a lost Venusian, and she dreams of taking her lover with her and returning to her home planet.
I love characters who live outside of the norm, reacting with wonder at the smallest and most mundane things. Nino takes this to a brand new level with her naive, innocent, Osaka-as-an-adult personality, never stopping to wonder if she really has the right ideas about life. And even though i’ve now seen an entire 26 episode series with her as one of the two leads, I still want to see more of her… Which put her right above all the other characters who were competing for tenth place.
9: Rider, from Fate/Zero
There are about a dozen characters from Fate/Zero that I wholeheartedly love, from the gallant Saber all the way down to one of the most hardcore villains of all time, Caster. But out of all of them, the one I love the most… And the one that has thus wound up on my list… Is that season’s version of Rider. We had Medusa in the first season, but this time around, we have The Jolly Red Giant himself, Alexander the Great! Or Sikander, otherwise.
I knew right from his first moment on screen that he was going to contribute to making this show awesome. And that was just his character design! Over the course of the series, I learned a lot more about him, from how larger-than-life his personality is, how strong his views on leadership is, to how joyously he takes to the technology of modern times. He dives right into our fashions, our electronics, and especially our maps, all while giving proud, inspiring speeches that both the English and Japanese voice actors throw themselves into.
There’s a moment in this show where he summons the two other king servants to drink with him, and by God if it didn’t become my favorite moment in the entire series… Possibly even one of my favorite anime moments of all time.
This may be a bit of a spoiler, but he wants to win the Holy Grail so that he can wish for his own personal resurrection into this modern world… So he can conquer it. Yes, he knows how impossible a task it would be to go up against all the nations and armies of the world, but he still wants to try, and you know what? I would follow him into battle any day.
8: Tomoya Okazaki, from Clannad
There are certain rules that the male lead in a harem anime must follow. But much like the authority figures around him, Tomoya violates them constantly. Coming from a broken home, he deals with a consistent onslaught of bad memories… None of which ever seem frivolous or exaggerated. He hides his depression behind a veil of sarcasm, truancy, and apathy, despite the fact that he still cares deeply about the few friends he actually has. If he ever goes to school, it isn’t to learn, but to help them, and occasionally play some of the most clever and hilarious pranks that you’ve ever seen on them. Over the course of fifty-two episodes, we follow this young man through several stages of character development, through joys, challenges, and tragedy, as he adapts naturally to each turn of the page.
Tomoya is the perfect leading man. He has a lot of whacky characters and nonsensical physics to work off of, but he is the tried and true heart of his own story. As a comedic lead, his pranks are some of the biggest highlights of the first season, as he sets up everything from a gender switch to one sided yuri confession. As a dramatic lead, you’ll follow him unwavering as he comes to terms with his own personal demons, including an old injury that tore him and his alcoholic father apart. As a romantic lead, you’ll follow his pursuit of the demure Nagisa with bated breath. And as a tragic lead, you’ll bawl your brains out as you witness his reaction to… Well, I can’t spoil everything, now can I?
He’s a great, well rounded character who keeps drawing me back to a series whose weird and unfocused story should have lost me halfway through.
7: Ika Musume, from Squid Girl
I already wrote a review about this show, but for those of you who haven’t read it, Squid girl is the story of the aptly named Ika who comes ashore, representing the ocean in a one-girl assault on the ungrateful, polluting human scourge. She quickly loses interest in this endeavor when she winds up working at a sea side beach shop, and marvelling at all the wonders and horrors that the human world has to offer.
Nino from Arakawa may have been surprisingly complex and entrancing, but there are a few things she wasn’t… Constantly funny, timeless, and unapologetic ally unsexy. Squid Girl is a character who’s entirely innocent not only in personality, but in presentation, and you have no idea how much of a challenge that is for a main female lead who lives exclusively on the beach. Fanservice, to her, is nothing more than an endless barrage of aquatic puns. so yeah, it’s more like fin-service.
The entire universe of the show… Characters, events, and all… Exist as props for her. They give her situations to react to, serving little other purpose. This would normally seriously bother me, but it’s used to great comedic affect. And besides, I’m pretty sure you could stick her in any sea-related setting, and she‘d still be a riot. Pirates of the Caribbean? She’d be Davy jones’ bratty daughter, and she’d have a lot of Abbot and Costello-esque conversations with Jack Sparrow. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? She’d come up to the Nautilus to warn her crew about the sea monsters, only to wind up dancing merrily to ‘whale of a tale.’ The Litttle Mermaid? Best fight scene ever! Somebody, please make these happen.
6: Kyuube, from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika
I have a friend who is terrified of Kyuube, calling him the most evil character he’s ever seen. And when I hear him say this, I scare him with my life-sized Kyuube plushy, and then defend the little guy by saying “He’s not evil, he’s only human.”
Yes, while the unemotional and perpetually smiling Kyuube may look like a cat-bunny hybrid taken directly from the universe of The Jetsons, he’s actually one of the most human villains I’ve ever seen in an anime. He’s completely devoid of ego, fighting for what he believes to be a good cause… And, logically, which seems to be a VERY good cause… All the while sporting an attitude toward his unassuming wards that’s not at all unlike the attitude the human race has towards the animals we slaughter for meat. Aside form a few lone nutjobs who think stripping naked in the street is a good deterrent for anything, people don’t generally acknowledge the feelings or emotions of the cows that went into their burgers. Why? Because whatever intellect that cow may possess, it’s on a completely different scale from ours, and too unsophisticated for us to care about it one way or another. Kyuube is exactly like this towards pretty much the entire cast of Madoka Magika, and he’s not exactly subtle about it. Is he sociopathic? Cruel? Evil? It depends on your perspective. We may shake our fist at him for doing such cold hearted spoiler-y things, but to him, he’s just doing what’s in the best interest of the universe as a whole. I love the nuance at play here, and while I appreciate him on a deeper level as well, I absolutely love just how creepy and unsettling this little bastard can be.
5: Light Yagami, from Death Note
As much as I can appreciate a very human villain with understandable goals and relatable motivations, I still have a soft part in my heart for the more sleazy, diabolically evil villains. Especially if they envision themselves to be the actual heroes. Yes, that’s right, between Kira and L, I’m proudly in the Kira camp. While L may technically be more complex and righteous, Light Yagami is so much more interesting to me.
Part of it is because if I were ever given a Death note, I’d dive into it head first, too, writing down names and scenarios faster than I could even think them. The difference would be, of course, that I wouldn’t delude myself about being the hero… Also, instead of attacking all of the evil in the world, I’d be attacking the evils of the entertainment industry… But then again, was Light really under the delusion that he was the hero, or was he just tricking himself into moral self-justification? Hell, maybe he really WAs on a mission of good from God… After all, the only times that L ever got closer to him were when he went outside of his parameters and killed good people who were just trying to investigate him.
I love seeing the psychological battles he has with every single soul who rises against him, and I find it incredibly satisfying when he wins them, through his own means or just through plain luck. I wasn’t always rooting for him, but then again, seeing him kill people I liked (EG Naomi Misora) just went to show that there was no room to misunderstand how evil he truly was. Hell, I even enjoyed seeing him come unravelled as his lies collapsed around him in the final story arc, as disappointing as it may have been.
He’s one of the greatest villains of all time, and he’s #5 on my list.
4: Duck, from Princess Tutu
I’m planning to post a review of this series in a few weeks, so you can pretty much consider this a preview. I love this show, and out of all the complex, relatable, and downright loveable characters in Princess Tutu, it’s the lead character… A diminutive little redhead named Duck… That takes the lead for me.
Her name is Duck… A name that makes much more sense in Japanese… Because she literally is a duck. She fell in love with a lonely, empty-hearted prince one night, and the mysterious Drosselmeyer used his limited influence to turn her into a human girl, and more importantly, into the tragic heroin Princess Tutu.
Duck is one of the most innocent and selfless characters to ever step webbed foot into an anime. Her love for Prince Mewtwo is never based on any kind of physical beauty or adult desire… She wants to be useful to him, and she wants to fix his heart to make him whole. Literally. She would die for him, and he’s not the only one… She lives to be helpful to others, with little regard for her own personal prosperity. When there’s nothing she can do to help someone, she doesn’t just let it slide… She’s devastated by it, and will look anywhere she can for someone who CAN help them. And we believe it, because she means every word of it with complete sincerity. She’s the only main character whose role in the story never really changes, and yet she still develops right alongside the others. Also, it’s pretty damn funny how she’s the only person who ever reacts to the walking, talking, uniform-clad animals that are always walking around.
3: D, from Vampire Hunter D
Okay, so, this is going to be a difficult one. And i’m not saying that because the character in question is one of the most complex and deep that i’ve ever come across… Actually, it’s the exact opposite problem. He’s a fantastic character in the books, but as he’s portrayed in the anime adaptations, D is probably one of the biggest Mary Sue characters in anime history.
See, i’ve always used a term called “Emo fabulous” to describe any character that a lonely fourteen year old would adopt as their lone wolf idol. Dark and goth-looking, tough loner badasses who make them feel better about the fact that they don’t have any friends. For comic book fans, this term would refer to Wolverine. For wrestling fans, this term would refer to The Undertaker. And D fits the bill better than either of them.
So, why would I rank such an underwhelming character so high on my list? Well, it’s because I was fourteen years old once too, and D was MY Emo Fabulous idol. I’m not proud of it, but I could sit and watch either of the Vampire Hunter D movies any day of the week as he slices his way through all of those poorly adapted antagonists without blinking an eye. There’s nothing that complex about him… He’s the tall dark stranger who rides a mechanical horse and apparently is borderline invincible. But what can I say? Nostalgia is a hard thing to argue with.
2: Edward Elric, from Fullmetal Alchemist
Edward Elric is a skilled young alchemist who showed promise for the field even from his earliest ages. After his father abruptly vanishes, his mother dies soon after, and he tries to resurrect her, which has tragic consequences for him and his younger brother. He swears to dedicate his life to alchemy so he can fix the damage that’s been done to them, even though he’s pretty obviously only concerned about restoring his brother over himself.
There are a lot of characters out there who carry pacifistic values into a cold, uncaring world, but I always felt that Edward… In the original anime, at least… Dealt with it in a much more compelling way than all the rest, as his beliefs are constantly challenged not only by the world around him, but by the actions that he himself is forced to take. He carries his beliefs and his endeavor through some of the darkest situations imaginable, and bravely looks fate itself right in the face before compromising with it, gradually allowing his beliefs to slip by one after the other until nothing is left but the desire to get his brothers’ body back.
He makes sacrifices, he suffers consequences, and… Well, I don’t want this to turn into a FMA vs. Brotherhood rant, or even into a full fledged review, so I’ll simply say he’s one of the most well written and perfectly explored characters I’ve ever seen, and yes, the inner fanboy in me loves how much wholesale ass he kicks.
He’s not a perfect or ideal character… He has his shortcomings, and he’ll probably kick my ass if I don’t rephrase that… He has his flaws, and for the most part, they’re all very relatable. He wins, he loses, and whenever something significant happens to him, you damn well feel it just as powerfully as he does. And aside from that writing jibber-jabber, he’s really freaking funny to boot. Just don’t call him short-tempered.
1: Lina Inverse, from Slayers!
Okay, so, here’s the part about this post that I was dreading, and for two reasons. First of all, despite being my all time favorite character, Lina lost in the death battle that I wrote. I stand by my decision on that, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any lingering guilt. And the second reason? I promised myself before I even started writing this that I wouldn’t gush about anything as shallow as ‘this character is awesome and totally kick-ass.” But that’s a pretty accurate description of Miss Inverse. It’s not all there is to her, thankfully, so let’s see what I can do here.
When it comes to using magic, Lina was a child prodigy, just like Ed Elric and Misaka Mikoto. Where she differentiates from them is that instead of taking a heroic or altruistic path, Lina became a travelling mercenary, using her powers to her advantage in order to afford her living expenses. This means taking odd jobs from towns in order to pay for a meal, and straight up slaughtering bandits in order to steal their loot. Watchmojo.com deserves to die in a fire for adding Light Yagami to their ‘top ten anime anti-heroes’ list instead of her. She eventually makes friends and allies, and while she apparently prefers to think of them as ‘useful items’, they do wind up changing her and smoothing out her edges just enough over time. The events that she gets dragged into also play a big part in this, as her reluctance to save a town from a rampaging dragon without compensation in episode 1 pales in comparison to her larger world-saving efforts down the road. So the development is there, and while it may not be consistent, it’s still a lot of fun to follow.
Truth be told, I’ve designed and played characters based on her in Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, World of Warcraft, and DC Universe Online. And can you blame me? Lina’s so badass, she doesn’t just slay dragons, she eats them and loves the taste! One of her attacks is so powerful that if it gets miss-cast even slightly, it would be a guaranteed game-over for the entire world, and yet she choses NOT to use this, swinging more towards hero than villain. And yet she’s also terrified of her older sister, so on a sliding scale, just how scary must THAT woman be? She travels the world like Kane from Kung-Fu, doling out destruction and plates of eaten food instead of wisdom, and leaving a distinct impression wherever she goes.
Slayers isn’t a very well written anime… Hell, aside from season 2, it’s downright clunky… But it takes a strong character to keep you coming back to over 100 episodes, several OVAs, and several movies to boot, despite the inconsistent quality of said material. Lina is tough, spunky, hilarious, and I thoroughly enjoy watching her in any kind of media. I own the entire Slayers series, all of the movies and OVAs, and I’m waiting with bated breath for the day that I can finally manage to get my hands on a translated light novel.
Um… My plans to avoid gushing like a fanboy didn’t go so well, did they? Well, it would take a hell of an awesome character to get me gushing like that, and I guess that’s as good an endorsement as any. She’s not a very deep or complex character, but what can I say? I absolutely love her.