1. Goku (Dragon Ball Z)
Goku is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the Dragon Ball manga series. The series was created by ‘Akira Toriyama’. Goku is based on ‘Sun Wukong’ the main character of the classic Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’ combined with influences from the Hong Kong martial arts films of the legends like ‘Bruce Lee’ and ‘Jackie Chan’. Goku first made his debut in the first Dragon Ball chapter, ‘Bulma and Son Goku’.
The character was introduced as an eccentric, monkey-tailed boy who practices martial arts and possesses superhuman strength. In the Japanese version of every Dragon Ball anime series, he has been voiced by ‘Masako Nozawa’. Goku has appeared in various other media including a Taiwanese live-action film and a Korean live-action film. The popular Canadian actor portrayed the role of ‘Goku’ in the film ‘Dragonball Evolution’. Goku has also appeared in almost every Dragon Ball licensed electronic video game.
In 2018, Goku became the first manga character to have a balloon at the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”. Several pieces of merchandising based on Goku have been released, including ‘Plushes’, ‘Keychains’, and ‘Action Figures’. He was ranked number one in IGN’s list of Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time. The readers of Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition voted Goku as the 41st-top video game character of all time. Goku became one of the most recognizable and iconic manga/anime characters worldwide.
2. Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)
Naruto Uzumaki is the titular protagonist of the manga Naruto series. The series was created by ‘Masashi Kishimoto’. The character is a young ninja from the fictional village of ‘Konohagakure’. Naruto has appeared in the other media related to the franchise, including video games and original video animations. The character is voiced by ‘Junko Takeuchi’ in the original animated series and ‘Maile Flanagan’ in the English adaptations. Merchandise based on Naruto includes figurines and keychains.
The character has also been the subject of research in literature, making him stand out in fiction based on his traits and growth. Screenwriter Maruo Kyozuka said that he wanted to depict a love triangle between Naruto, Hinata, and Toneri Otsutsuki in ‘The Last: Naruto the Movie’. In a 2018 poll from ‘Shonen Jump’, Naruto was voted one of the most powerful characters in the magazine’s history. The Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition voted ‘Naruto’ as the twenty-ninth best character appearing in video games. In a Japanese TV special, Naruto was voted the 13th “strongest hero” of the Heisei Era. Olympic medalist “Usain Bolt” has also shown his love for Naruto and the Naruto series several times through Instagram posts.
In 2021, he was voted the second-best character. The popular rapper and songwriter ‘Ski Mask the Slump God’ started the first verse of his song ‘Catch me Outside’ with a reference to Naruto and his ninetails mode. Naruto’s character has received a positive response in printed and online publications. ‘Joseph Szadkowski’ noted that Naruto has become a pop-culture sensation.
3. Itachi Uchiha (Naruto)
Itachi Uchiha is a fictional character in the Naruto manga and anime series created by ‘Masashi Kishimoto’. Itachi is the elder brother of ‘Sasuke Uchiha’ and is responsible for killing all the members of their clan. Numerous types of merchandise have been released in Itachi’s likeness, including keychains, plush dolls, and figurines.
His fights were noted to be “one of the best” in the series. Itachi is a playable character in most of the video games from the series. The character is voiced by Japanese voice actor ‘Hideo Ishikawa’. Itachi is present in the sixth Naruto: Shippuden movie, Road to Ninja. The character was ranked high in the Weekly Shonen Jump popularity polls. Itachi received generally positive reviews from several publications for manga, anime, video games, and other related media. IGN reader ‘Jason Van Horn’ characterized Itachi as “badass”.
NTT customers voted him as one of their favorite black-haired male anime characters. CyberConnect2 CEO ‘Hiroshi Matsuyama’ referred to Itachi as one of his favorite characters from Naruto. In a review of Volume 16 of the manga, Deb Aoki from About.com listed Itachi’s introduction in the series as one of the cons of the volume. Itachi’s character has been popular with readers of the manga and has been positively received by critics. His last fight with Sasuke before dying was considered “epic” by ‘Casey Brienza’ from ANN.
4. Kakashi Hatake (Naruto)
Kakashi Hatake is a fictional character in the Naruto manga and anime series created by ‘Masashi Kishimoto’. In the story, Kakashi is the teacher of ‘Team 7’. The character has appeared in several pieces of Naruto media, the featured films in the series, the original video animations, and the video games. For the anime series, he is voiced by ‘Kazuhiko Inoue’ in Japanese and in the English dub by ‘Dave Wittenberg’.
Various anime and manga publications have praised Kakashi’s character. Merchandise based on Kakashi’s character includes key chains and plush dolls. It has ranked within the top five characters in every official Weekly Shonen Jump popularity poll. The character has won the ‘Anime Award’ in the category of Best Supporting Male Character. He was nominated in the “Nickelodeon Magazine Comics Awards” in the category of Best Hair in Comics.
It is a playable character in all Naruto video games, including the Clash of Ninja series and the Ultimate Ninja series. Kakashi’s portrayal in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations attracted negative responses from Anime News Network. His rude demeanor during the ninja graduation exams was criticized as the reviewer noted Boruto did not deserve such poor treatment. An upcoming light novel titled ‘Kakashi Hiden’ will focus on the character.
5. Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach)
Ichigo Kurosaki is a fictional character in the Bleach manga series. The series was created by ‘Tite Kubo’. He is the series’s main protagonist, who receives Soul Reaper powers. In addition to the manga series, the character Ichigo has appeared in many other pieces of Bleach media, including the anime series, the four featured films, the two original video animations, rock musicals, several video games, and light novels. Ichigo is voiced by ‘Masakazu Morita’ in Japanese.
In the live-action film, he is played by Japanese actor ‘Sota Fukushi’. Everyone appreciated his character. Ichigo is often featured in Weekly Shonen Jump character popularity polls. He was ranked as the most popular character in ‘Bleach’. Ichigo was named in the list of the top 100 most-loved anime characters by ‘Newtype Magazine’. Reviewers of the series have praised his personality.
Merchandise based on Ichigo’s likeness has been released, including clothing, toys, and action figures. In the Bleach video games, Ichigo is a playable character, including in the Heat the Soul and Blade Battlers series. He was named in the list of IGN’s ‘Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time’. Ichigo has featured twice in the Anime Grand Prix polls, ranking as one of the most popular male anime characters. Various replica models of Ichigo’s Zanpakuto and Bankai have been made for purchase by collectors and fans.
6. Roy Mustang (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
Colonel Roy Mustang is a fictional character from the Fullmetal Alchemist manga series. The series is created by ‘Hiromu Arakawa’. Mustang is a State Alchemist of Amestris’ State Military, as well as the superior of the series’ protagonist, Edward Elric. He holds the title of ‘Flame Alchemist’ for his ability to create fire with alchemy. Despite his ambition, as the series continues, Mustang decides to leave the State Military after his best friend ‘Maes Hughes’ was hurt by the homunculi, who are controlling the Military.
Besides his appearances in the manga and the anime, the character ‘Mustang’ has been featured in other media like the original video animations and the Fullmetal Alchemist video games. Since his introduction in the manga series, Mustang has been well received by readers, appearing second in each popularity poll for the series. His character has also received appreciation from various media.
Mustang was ranked sixth in the list of best anime male characters. He was named in the Animage’s Anime Grand Prix polls in the category of best male characters. His character has ranked second in all of the popularity polls from the series developed by Monthly Shonen Gangan. NTT customers voted him as one of the favorite black-haired male anime characters. He was voted as the 3rd best “guy” in a poll by Anime News Network. Additionally, Mustang is portrayed by Dean Fujioka in the live-action film based on the series.
7. Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)
Spike Spiegel is a fictional character introduced as the protagonist of the 1998 anime series Cowboy Bebop. Spike is a former member of the criminal Red Dragon Syndicate. He is first introduced as the partner of ‘Jet Black’. The series was created by ‘Shinichiro Watanabe’ and was designed by ‘Toshihiro Kawamoto’. He was featured on multiple reader and critic lists of the best anime characters. In addition to the series, many reviewers of the movie positively noted his expanded portrayal in ‘Cowboy Bebop: The Movie’.
In 2021, John Cho portrayed Spike in the live-action series for Netflix. Spike’s character has been well received in Japan. He won first place in the Best Male Character category at Animage’s annual Anime Grand Prix Awards. Spike was ranked first on the list of Top 10 Most Popular Male Anime Characters in Japan. He was one of the characters named in the list of Favorite Male Characters. In an article in the magazine, ‘The Atlantic’ writer ‘Alex Suskind’ was positive about Spike’s portrayal and development. IGN ranked Spike among the best anime characters of all time. He was nominated in the category of “Best Lead Male Character” at the Anime Awards. Complex Networks ranked Spike as the fourth most stylish anime character ever.
8. Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass)
Lelouch Lamperouge is the title character and leading antihero of the Sunrise anime series Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. In the series, Lelouch is a former prince from the superpower Britannia who is given the power of the “Geass” by a witch known as C.C. Besides ‘Code Geass’, Lelouch has appeared in multiple related adaptations and spin-offs like ‘Nightmare of Nunually’ and ‘Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection’. He has featured in the Super Robot Wars crossover video games. Lelouch was designed by the group of manga artists Clamp, who aimed to create a stylish and visually appealing character.
He is voiced by ‘Jun Fukuyama’ and his younger self is voiced by ‘Sayaka Ohara’. In the English dub, he is voiced by ‘Johnny Yong Bosch’ and ‘Michelle Ruff young’. The voice actors were praised a lot for their great work. The character of Lelouch has been recognized as one of Japan’s most popular characters. In Code Geass: Lost Colors, the video game for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, there are several different endings and clips of Lelouch that involve the main character.
Lelouch’s character has been well received by viewers of the series, appearing in various anime polls. He was named as the best anime male character of the decade by ‘Newtype Magazine’. Lelouch was nominated as one of the best male characters at the Japanese Animation Awards. He was named in the list of best anime characters of all time by IGN. He was regarded as one of the most intelligent anime characters by ‘Otakuzine Anime Magazine’.
9. Light Yagami (Death Note)
Light Yagami is the main protagonist of the manga series ‘Death Note’. The series was created by ‘Tsugumi Ohba’ and ‘Takeshi Obata’. Light is pursued by a special task force, headed by a consulting detective known as “L”. In the anime adaptation, he is voiced by ‘Mamoru Miyano’ in Japanese and by ‘Brad Swaile’ in the English version. He is portrayed by ‘Tatsuya Fujiwara’ in the live-action film series. ‘Takeshi Obata’ the artist of the ‘Death Note’ said that he had “no trouble” designing ‘Light’ as the character description presented to him “A brilliant honors student who’s a little out there was clear and detailed”.
In the musical adaptation, Light is portrayed by ‘Kenji Urai’ and ‘Hayato Kakizawa’ in the Japanese productions and ‘Hong Kwang-ho’ and ‘Han Ji-sang’ in the Korean productions. The character Light has appeared in the crossover video game ‘Jump Force’. In an interview, ‘Tom S. Pepirium’ of ‘IGN’ said that he was surprised when some viewers while watching the series, wanted Light to emerge as the victor of the storyline.
‘Tatsuya Fujiwara’ said that he felt difficulty portraying Light in the film series because of the lack of “action” and because Light has no signature mannerisms and therefore has his feelings displayed by his face. ‘Kenichi Matsuyama’ the actor who portrayed ‘L’ said that he and Fujiwara became “so immersed” in their character portrayals that they did not talk to one another while on the set. Most of Light’s clothing in Death Note is “fitted” and Obata avoided jeans. ‘Takeshi Obata’ assigned specific colors to each main character to help get the atmosphere right.
10. Astro Boy
Astro Boy has known in Japan as Atom a fictional superhero and the protagonist of the eponymous franchise which was created by ‘Osamu Tezuka’. In 1951, the character ‘Captain Atom Manga’ was introduced. Astro Boy has appeared in animated television series and video games. The City of Niiza registered the character as an actual resident on 7 April 2003. Tezuka created a comic series in which ‘Astro’ was the main character. He was named on the list of 50 Greatest Comic Characters by ‘Empire Magazine’. IGN’s “Chris Mackenzie” named ‘Astro Boy’ as one of the top anime characters of all time.
Most people commented that “he was Japan’s first great modern cartoon hero”. IGN ranked him as the fourth greatest anime character of all time. Astro Boy appeared in the show of the same name as its major protagonist. Summit Entertainment partnered with McDonald’s to produce marketing tie-ins for ‘Astro Boy’. A soundtrack album was released by ‘Varese Sarabande Records’ for the film ‘Astro Boy’. Tezuka’s art style became more modern and cute to appeal to the audience of boys in elementary school. Merchandise based on Astro Boy has been released, including clothing, toys, and action figures. He was also inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame.