To every superhero, there is a sidekick — and for every anime protagonist, there is a handful of side characters.
Today I want to put the spotlight on those side characters and list some of my favourites — a few of which I even prefer over the leading boy or girl.
In typical battle shounen, side characters tend to get a mini-character arc in which they develop, and then they are never revisited. In romance series they get rejected and become irrelevant — it’s their time to shine now. Let’s go.
Genos – One Punch Man
This is an interesting one because I do actually really like Saitama and think he is both a hilarious and interesting character. He is, however, completely one-note — and deliberately so.
One Punch Man is a series that parodies what the shounen genre is famed for, so while I don’t mind that Saitama is a fairly monotonous character, I do prefer my characters to have a bit more going for them.
So why Genos? From the outset, Genos was an overly confident and cocky character who believed that no one (except his cyborg nemesis) could possibly come close to beating him, thanks to his mostly machine-body that allowed him to move at unimaginable speed and hit incredibly hard — it also gave him a plethora of new weapons. Naturally, he gets overconfident and loses in his first fight after being introduced, later to be saved by Saitama who, of course, throws just a single punch to decide the entire encounter.
After suffering defeat and being saved, Genos develops from his original cocky character into someone humble and in need of guidance from the one who saved him. The way in which Genos learns and grows after each and every defeat makes this mostly-metal man seem more human than the majority of the characters in the series.
In all honesty, Genos is the character you would expect to be the main protagonist in a shounen series — cool and unique design, an interesting set of powers, a tragic backstory, a heroic mindset — and it’s probably these reasons as to why I like him so much. That and his superbly animated fight scenes, and absolute banger of a theme song.
L – Death Note
L is another fairly interesting case as, depending on how you view Light Yagami, L is closer to being the “good guy” protagonist than the series’ actual main character is. Don’t get me wrong here, Light Yagami is a great main character when it comes to being entertaining, but I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t his mental battle with L that made Death Note the critically acclaimed series that it is today.
Death Note presents us with a character who is both feared and worshiped. No one understands this power and some people live in fear that Kira, Light’s Death note persona, may suddenly kill them. L is the one and the only person who not only tries to reveal who Kira is, but also bring him to justice. This creates one of the most well-known and loved games of cat and mouse in the world of anime.
L brought a lot of incredible things to the series and even anime culture — the classic L sitting pose and the L death stare. These things have been memed to death over the years and it’s because he’s an incredibly memorable character! Light is a good character and I love what he brought to the table, but L is iconic.
Akeno – High School DxD
I really wanted to include a character from romance or harem anime, because they are probably the most common cause of fans preferring side characters over the main cast. High School DxD centers around Issei who, after being killed, is brought back to life as a devil thanks to the girl he has been crushing on, Rias Gremory.
From the moment this series kicks off you know exactly who the ending girl is going to be. Rias is not only Issei’s crush, but she is charismatic, romantically aggressive — a nice change from the timid trope that harem anime usually gives us — and she’s the person who saved his damn life. Rias is a fantastic girl, and if Akeno wasn’t a character I would be preaching about how Rias is indeed the best girl in High School DxD.
In the end, harem anime is just like sports anime — we pick our team and stick with them through thick and thin and pray to god that she wins, even if we know she has no hope. In The Quintessential Quintuplets, it’s Ichika Nakano, in To Love Ru it’s Mikado Ryouko — and in DxD it’s Akeno.
Who are your favourite side characters? Let us know in the comments — or write us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page if you’d like to wax lyrical at length about your favourite underappreciated waifus or husbandos!
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