Best Slice of Life Anime Characters & Protagonists (Ranked)

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The best stories take great care of their characters — and this is especially the case in slice-of-life anime.

In a genre where the mundanities of life are put into the spotlight, you need individuals that shine on their own and in social settings as well.

It’s through their point of view that viewers can empathize with people who live strikingly distinct lives.

I’ve been lucky to have found so many good SoL shows over the years, and the folks below are the characters I fondly remember the most.


15. Yusaku Godai

Yusaku Godai from Maison Ikkoku anime

Anime: Maison Ikkoku

Maison Ikkoku is a special show because of its quantity and quality.

With 96 episodes and a film to boot, it had sufficient time to develop its male MC from a 19-year-old preparing for his college entrance exams to an actual adult.

Yusaku Godai was having a terrible time at the boarding house due to the state of his room and the wild antics of the other residents.

Then came the new manager of the building. Her name was Kyouko Otonashi — and Yusaku immediately fell in love.

Her presence starts his arduous yet ultimately rewarding journey toward positive growth and maturity.

Yes, he fumbles.

Yes, Kyouko being a window complicates his romantic goals.

But Yusaku perseveres and comes to terms with the fact that life is equally capable of bringing joy and sadness.


14. Akari Mizunashi

Akari Mizunashi in Aria

Anime: Aria

The Aria anime franchise has been around since 2005, and continues to satisfy new and old fans alike.

Akari Mizunashi is no longer the protagonist in the recently released Aria the Crepuscolo film, but she deservedly was the MC for three entire seasons.

She was born on Manhome (Earth), and proceeded to leave for Aqua (the terraformed Mars) to achieve her dream of becoming an Undine. Which is basically a female tour guide who travels using gondolas.

And I love her warm personality.

Given how she becomes quite popular around Neo-Venezia, I’m sure that the varied people of the city feel the same.

Lastly, I love how she appreciates even the most ordinary things in life.

Akari works hard, but she never fails to find time to stop and smell the roses.


13. Konata Izumi

Konata Izumi from Lucky Star anime

Anime: Lucky Star

This is one of the first CGDCT anime shows, and an early hit from Kyoto Animation.

There are four MCs, but Konata Izumi has to be my favorite character.

Otherwise known as Kona-chan, she represented the geeks and otaku back in the 2000s with her love of anime, manga, and video games.

The online role-playing games at the time were clunky due to their UI and iffy internet connections, but they were nevertheless fun.

Seeing Konata immersed in the virtual world, grinding for good loot, brings back good memories.

Plus, Konata’s witty even though she dislikes studying.

Lastly, I just like Konata’s overall personality. She likes making friends, having fun, and appreciating what she has in life, as her mother died when she was just a baby. Which makes her personality all the more inspiring.


12. Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden in Violet Evergarden

Anime: Violet Evergarden

Kyoto Animation stunned everyone when they released the teaser for this — and what’s even better is that the anime looked just as amazing.

The studio set the bar high, but managed to pull everything off from the series to the movies.

The titular main character is easily one of the best-looking characters ever.

Blonde hair and blue eyes are a common combination, but it’s rare to see it in a character as intricately designed as her.

Yet it’s not just her appearance that makes her compelling:

As an Auto Memories Doll and a former child soldier, Violet Evergarden has a flawed understanding of human emotions.

She isn’t even initially aware of this herself.

But as she continues on with her writing job, Violet gets to meet more people, slowly but surely understanding the complexity of human life and the universality of feelings such as sorrow, pain, and (most importantly) love.


11. Kusuo Saiki

Kusuo Saiki in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

Anime: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

Okay, aside from the manga readers, who knew that a pink-haired dude with green glasses would be so endearing and hilarious?

Kusuo Saiki is an incredibly powerful psychic with a ton of abilities:

He can turn back time, manipulate minds, fly, become invisible, teleport, and he has supernatural speed and strength, among others.

But all he wants is to live a normal life.

Kusuo doesn’t want to hear everyone else’s thoughts all the time. Likewise, he dislikes having to be wary of all his movements as one wrong step can be disastrous for everyone else.

Each day brings new wacky situations brought about by the colorful cast, and I can’t get enough of Kusuo trying his best to fix problems big and small, all without revealing his psychic abilities.


10. Yui Hirasawa

Yui Hirasawa from K-ON! anime

Anime: K-ON!

Yui Hirasawa is the highest-ranking character from a Kyoto Animation series on my list. And she deserves this spot.

From her big brown eyes filled with youthful energy, to her adorable kind of everyday laziness, Yui felt real despite being a “moe blob” MC.

Aside from character writing, what made her human was her characterization through animation.

Naoko Yamada was the director of K-ON (this was actually her first directorial role), and her vision for character acting made Yui and the rest of the girls shine throughout episodes of daily fun and wholesome scenes.

Furthermore, Aki Toyosaki did well as her voice actor.

She captured how it felt to be a young girl with big dreams (and a big heart), who also sometimes wants to do nothing all day but eat sweets and look at the pet turtle.


9. Kino

Kino in Kino’s Journey anime screenshot

Anime: Kino’s Journey

There are two adaptations of Kino’s Journey.

Most fans prefer the older version from 2003, but you may also find something worthwhile in the 2017 anime from Studio Lerche.

Regardless, both properly adapt the titular teen MC who wants nothing more in the world but to travel and learn different cultures, perhaps getting a better understanding of what makes life worth living despite the cruelty and sadness.

Kino is a very chill person. A good thing for everyone else, since she’s a top-notch marksman.

Yes, she may seem uncaring, but she’s actually good and understanding.

Lastly, I love that she wants to learn about the world as much as possible but doesn’t want to stay for too long and “settle down”.

Her line about the world being beautiful because it isn’t may sound odd, but it’s a poetic statement once you follow her journey.


8. Anzu

Anzu from Hinamatsuri anime

Anime: Hinamatsuri

Hinamatsuri was a welcome surprise back in 2018.

Its characters and humor were strange in all the right ways — and it’s where I found the perfect supporting character Anzu.

I thought she was going to be a generic tsundere tasked with being the bratty member of the group. But her loss against the MC and her inability to go back home (her device was damaged) led her to a path of outstanding character development.

First, Anzu was taken in by a group of homeless people. And she learned the importance of community and hard work.

While the female MC was spoiled with food and video games, Anzu helped viewers see the plight of those with rough socioeconomic conditions.

Then she got adopted by a couple who had a restaurant, and the moment she realized she had a loving family melted my heart. Bless Anzu.


7. Hana

Hana in Wolf Children anime

Anime: Wolf Children

Wolf Children is an original anime film that’s as painful and heartwarming as it is necessary viewing.

At the heart of this Mamoru Hosoda project is Hana.

Hana was just your ordinary college student — then she meets and falls in love with a guy whose deep secret is that he’s a werewolf.

Despite their differences, they start a family and have two wild yet cute kids.

Sadly, her beloved partner dies in an accident.

Now she has to take care of two kids who are unlike anyone else in the urban jungle.

Hana is forced to relocate to the countryside, hoping that the change in scenery will prove beneficial for her (as a widow and single mother) and her wolf children.

Hana is one of the best mothers in anime history. And everyone should definitely witness her story.


6. Ginko

Ginko from Mushishi anime

Anime: Mushishi

It’s pretty much impossible to not have Ginko on this list.

He’s the MC of one of the acclaimed anime of all time, slice-of-life or not.

As a mushishi, Ginko’s job is to find mushi in whatever form they take and decipher their true nature.

Is the meaning of life hidden beneath the behavior and existence of these life forms?

Well he guides not only the mushi, but viewers as well.

Through his laid-back and serious demeanor, Ginko offers a path to viewers looking to reflect on their lives and ponder on philosophical, existential questions.

Otherwise, he helps people get a good night’s sleep after a stressful day, thanks to how his character complements the overall solemn vibe of the show.


5. Takashi Natsume

Takashi Natsume in Natsume's Book of Friends

Anime: Natsume’s Book of Friends

Similar to Mushishi, I’d say Natsume Yuujinchou is an oft-praised slice-of-life supernatural franchise that has a remarkable character at the helm.

Takashi Natsume starts out as this lonely 15-year-old.

However, this isn’t your usual case of a teenager feeling sad because he’s not with his crush or friends.

Takashi was an orphan who was only recently taken in by a genuinely kind couple. He was ostracized when he was young.

No one believed he could see spirits that haunt him all the time.

As he strives to return all the spirits to their rightful owners, Takashi learns to once again open his heart to both humans and youkai, slowly recovering from his traumatic past and hoping no one will exploit his kindness.


4. Nadeshiko Kagamihara

Nadeshiko Kagamihara in Laid-Back Camp anime

Anime: Laid-Back Camp

Yuru Camp is one of the most relaxing anime series ever — and Nadeshiko Kagamihara is easily its most comfy character.

Similar to K-ON’s Yui Hirasawa, this pink-haired, blue-eyed girl exudes an energy that’s all about enjoying the present with good friends and good food.

I won’t blame you if you suddenly get the urge to get in a blanket and have a hot cup of chocolate (or noodles) when you see Nadeshiko happily eating.

Her character celebrates the beauty of simplicity.

When the world is all about constant consumption and grinding to earn money (to burn on anything and everything), it’s nice to see someone proving you don’t need a lot of things to be happy.


3. Rei Kiriyama

Rei Kiriyama from March Comes in Like a Lion

Anime: March Comes in Like a Lion

Everyone is clamoring for a third season of 3-gatsu no Lion. And I hope the production committee hears their plea.

March Comes in Like a Lion is a rare anime that gracefully handles its mature themes through excellent writing and direction.

At the forefront of this slice-of-life seinen is the 17-year-old Rei Kiriyama, a timid young boy who lost his family (both his parents and his sister) due to an accident.

He wants to live on his own, but he isn’t taking good care of himself.

Thankfully, he meets the welcoming Kawamoto sisters.

The series can be a tough watch at times. But I will forever be grateful for Rei’s (still unfinished) story.

His trauma, depression, and other social and psychological problems are palpable — and yet he fights on to become a better person one small step at a time.


2. Yuuta Takemoto

Yuuta Takemoto from Honey and Clover anime

Anime: Honey and Clover

High school is an eventful period in anyone’s life.

It’s characterized by sudden changes both emotional and physical.

Teens enter their rebellious phase and hope to discover themselves, uncovering who and what they like.

College is just as, if not more, tumultuous and life-changing as high school — and this is certainly how Yuuta Takemoto and his buddies feel.

Honey and Clover centers around the lives of five friends. But it’s Yuuta who captured my attention from the get-go.

I could definitely relate to his indecisiveness.

It’s incredibly frustrating being at a point in life where you should know where you’re headed in the long run, yet you’re feeling stuck and others are seemingly forging their career and life paths with confidence.

Given how I didn’t grow up with a ‘normal’ family as well, I can understand part of the reason why Yuuta behaves the way he does.

If you’re at a crossroads, check out Yuuta and the rest of the gang in Honey and Clover.


1. Renge Miyauchi

Renge Miyauchi in Non Non Biyori anime

Anime: Non Non Biyori

There are lots of CGDCT and slice-of-life titles with heartwarming female characters.

But no one does it better than Renge Miyauchi — the heart of the consistently well-made and comforting Non Non Biyori.

Renge is a first-grade pupil in a school where there are only four other students, and only one classroom being used.

She’s known in the anime community for her “nyanpasu” catchphrase and signature blank face.

But what I love the most about Renge is her unceasing childlike wonder and innocence.

She says (and does) silly things, but they never feel out of character — it’s just her being a child.

It’s someone seeing the world (or the humble village countryside) with fresh eyes each ordinary day.

I love how she keeps herself busy:

Renge’s interested in science (she likes reading) and she’s a promising artist. She clearly loves animals (even huge, grumpy frogs) and plants, except for bell pepper, and those plants with spiky little things.

Also, she’s friendly and likes to play, but knows when to prioritize homework.

Non Non Biyori is masterful with long silences for comedic effect. And Renge is often part of these classic moments.

I will never forget the episode where she becomes friends with another small girl, only for the latter to leave after a few days, crushing poor Renge’s heart.

It was the moment when I knew she was going to be one of my all-time favorite characters.

Browse: Anime

R. Romero

Millennial introvert on the lookout for slice-of-life anime, world cinema, and European music. Follow on Twitter @notspencer08