Top 25 Most Inspirational Anime Characters (Ranked)

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To be perfectly honest, there’s no other medium in the world that’s inspired me more than anime — and this has been true since I was a kid watching Dragon Ball and Yu Yu Hakusho.

Throughout the years, I’ve been lucky to watch a trove of stellar shows. Ones that brightened my day and help me get back on my feet, even when the series wasn’t consciously designed to offer any kind of support.

And it’s not just anime that can be inspiring, but the characters too.

Check out this list ranking some of the most inspiring characters, especially if you’re looking for a pick-me-up (and some darn good stories and animation to boot).


25. Vash the Stampede

Vash the Stampede from Trigun anime

Anime: Trigun

You just know the entries here are special because Trigun’s iconic MC itself is kicking off the list. Vash the Stampede is one of the most fascinating characters out there — anime or not.

His public image suggests he’s easygoing, friendly, and unbothered by even the gigantic bounty on him.

Then Trigun looks into his past and moments of solitude, revealing a pained and depressed man whose soul needs much healing.

And this is what makes him admirable:

Despite literally decades of suffering, Vash the Stampede refuses to despise all of humanity and seek out revenge, choosing instead to look at the bright side of humanity and yearn for peace.


24. Makunouchi Ippo

Makunouchi Ippo in Hajime no Ippo

Anime: Hajime no Ippo

I completely understand if you have no interest in Hajime no Ippo. It’s not as long as One Piece, but the anime has over 100 episodes.

On the other hand, I firmly believe in Makunouchi’s ability to get you hyped and eager to accomplish the day’s tasks again and again.

Like any great sports anime, Hajime no Ippo is filled with challenges, formidable enemies, and moments of hard-earned triumph.

No one needs to have boxing expertise to get caught in the action. Before you know it, you’ll be rooting for Makunouchi (and his pals) and feeling energized while and after watching.


23. Yui Hirasawa

Yui Hirasawa from K-ON! anime

Anime: K-ON!

Yes, it’s odd to see someone physically daunting like Makunouchi Ippo get beaten by the ultra-adorable Yui Hirasawa of Yamada’s groundbreaking Kyoto Animation CGDCT series.

But this is true:

This fun-loving & warmhearted girl made me see life on a more positive note, and not take ordinary things for granted.

K-ON and its band of young girls reminded me that I shouldn’t stress myself out — that there’s nothing wrong with taking a breather now and then.

While many shows are focused on making viewers eager to finish everything as soon as possible, K-ON inspired me to relish the journey (and its detours and the people around you), not just always looking at the destination.


22. Rock Lee

Rock Lee in Naruto anime

Anime: Naruto

It was difficult to continue watching Naruto: Shippuden when it was packed to the brim with filler.

But I didn’t need to even see the sequel to love Rock Lee.

In a world where his peers are capable of genjutsu and ninjutsu, here was a kid who could do neither.

Did his failure in those two fields bring him down forever?

Nope. Instead, he promised to succeed as a ninja using taijutsu, which then prompted the one and only Might Guy to train him in taijutsu.

You don’t need to watch the entire show to see why Rock Lee deserves this spot on my list. Just take a look at his early fight against Gaara.


21. Takashi Natsume

Takashi Natsume from Natsume’s Book of Friends

Anime: Natsume’s Book of Friends

As one of the all-time best slice of life (and supernatural) anime series, Natsume Yuujinchou is more than guaranteed to captivate you in one way or another.

The 15-year-old MC Takashi Natsume has had a rough childhood, to say the least.

Due to his grandmother’s actions, countless spirits trouble the innocent teenager, punishing him for their lack of freedom.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he has no parents. Takashi simply doesn’t have a place he can comfortably say he belongs to.

Instead of giving up on life, he moves forward — determined to free all the yokai and learn to break free from his traumatic past while making a few friends along the way.


20. Wenge Kong

Wenge Kong from Ping Pong the Animation

Anime: Ping Pong the Animation

I’ve seen this Masaaki Yuasa masterpiece at least twice now, and its rich set of characters never ceases to inspire me — and you don’t need to root for them.

You see, Wenge Kong isn’t even one of the main characters.

Nicknamed “China” because he is actually from China and moved to Japan as an exchange student, he’s easily one of the best players in the country.

But Wenge didn’t win all the time. And one failure cost him his spot in his Chinese team. So his trip to Japan is about redemption and finding a new lease on life, even when all hope was seemingly lost.


19. Kakeru Kurahara

Kakeru Kurahara in Run with the Wind anime

Anime: Run with the Wind

Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is one of the better new anime to come out in recent years.

Premiering in Fall 2018, the series actually made me consider running regularly (or any other intense cardio activity) and just get out there and chase my dreams.

Yes, Kakeru Kurahara isn’t exactly the most likable MC at the start:

Running often dominates his mind that his social skills become lacking — and he can be brutally frank when it comes to other people’s performance and skills.

But you get why he feels this way because the anime is so good at giving depth to him (and the rest of the team, to be honest).


18. Mutta Nanba

Mutta Nanba Space Brothers anime screenshot

Anime: Space Brothers

Mutta Nanba, like his brother, dreamed of being astronauts. He would reach for Mars while his younger sibling would go for the Moon.

But once he was done in school, Mutta ended up working for a car company. On the other hand, Hibito was well on his way to being an astronaut.

Is it too late for him? He doesn’t think so.

Does he have to make sacrifices and work really, really hard for his dream (and also have a bit of luck)? Yes, and it’s an honor to see a man beat his self-doubts to reignite his childhood ambition.


17. Hana

Hana from Wolf Children anime

Anime: Wolf Children

I’m personally more a fan of Summer Wars, but the great Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children undoubtedly has its own special place in my heart.

All I expected was the slice-of-life adventures of a werewolf family.

To be fair, it was still largely about that. But it also had heartbreak, a bit of family drama, the search for one’s identity, and the struggles of a single mother.

Hana is one of my favorite moms in anime ever — and the way she comes to terms with the loss of her husband and what her kids want to be is nothing short of exceptional.

She works hard, keeps her head up, and beats the odds for the sake of her unique family.


16. Akari Kawamoto

Akari Kawamoto in March Comes in Like a Lion

Anime: March Comes in Like a Lion

I can probably refer to five other characters in 3-gatsu no Lion — and they’d still fit this spot on my list. That’s just how well-written they (and the story) are.

But I’d argue that even the MC Rei Kiriyama would say that Akari Kawamoto deserves to be the one here.

Akari Kawamoto wasn’t dealt the best hand in life:

Her mom died early on and her dad went away, leaving her to take care of her two younger sisters. She works in the day (helping her grandfather) and at night (as a hostess) to make ends meet.

Yet these didn’t deter her from once again helping another person (Rei). Akari is a selfless sweetheart and deserves all the world has to offer.


15. Watashi

Watashi from The Tatami Galaxy anime

Anime: The Tatami Galaxy

The MC of Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is never actually named in the entire series — “Watashi” is just a term to refer to himself.

So what do I love about this unnamed protagonist?

I can certainly relate to how he (stubbornly) dreams of the rose-colored life, which may or may not even exist in the first place.

Likewise, I love his failures.

It’s not that I want him to fail. Instead, I appreciate that he experiences failures and disappointment (the way real people do) because, at the end of the day, these can help one realize the truths of life and what steps they should take next.


14. Kumiko Oumae

Kumiko Oumae from Sound! Euphonium anime

Anime: Sound! Euphonium

Hibike Euphonium is chock-full of gorgeous character animation that effortlessly highlights personalities and emotional shifts.

Perhaps the best moment of Kumiko Oumae (and in the series overall) is her iconic running scene in EP 12 that also involves a lot of funny yet gripping shouting by her and Shuuichi Tsukamoto.

It’s such a simple, powerful message that all of us need every now and then:

“I want to improve.”

I love how frustrated she felt and how she kept repeating this statement. Life is filled with hardships (at least for ordinary folks like me), and people need moments of catharsis.


13. Yuuta Takemoto

Yuuta Takemoto in Honey and Clover anime

Anime: Honey and Clover

It’s been over 15 years since this ultra-relatable slice-of-life josei series premiered — and the wonderful five-member main cast remains fresh in my mind.

You can find something endearing and realistic with all the primary characters in Honey and Clover (and don’t forget the second season), but Yuuta Takemoto just speaks to my soul, or at least during the days I was in university.

Here’s a guy who’s unsure about what he wants in life, but is fully aware that time won’t wait for him to make a choice.

I guess it’ll be odd for some, but Yuuta’s multiple bouts of uncertainty and all the decisions he makes to (possibly and hopefully) reach a point of self-realization is deeply inspiring.


12. Ohana Matsumae

Ohana Matsumae in Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow

Anime: Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow

This is the first entry of the PA Works “working series” trilogy and focuses on a young girl who has no choice (at the start of the story) but to work at her grandmother’s hot-spring inn.

Ohana Matsumae is a good girl:

She’s reliable, hardworking, and will help anyone in need — even if others see her in a less desirable light.

I also love how she’s forged a great degree of independence (partly because her mom was far from a role model when Ohana was young).

And as the series goes on, she learns that while she can accomplish many things by herself, there’s also nothing wrong with seeking assistance from others.


11. Aoi Miyamori

Aoi Miyamori from Shirobako anime

Anime: Shirobako

Yes, Shirabako is the second part of the aforementioned PA Works trilogy. No, it’s purely a coincidence that Ohana Matsumae and Aoi Miyamori are right next to each other.

Aoi Miyamori reminds me of Yuuta Takemoto. Like him, she also has doubts about her career path.

But “giving up” isn’t in her vocabulary.

The fact that Aoi chose to be in the anime industry, which is notorious for long working hours and relatively measly pay, is a testament to her tenacity.

It’s been said many times now that Shirobako is a love letter to the anime industry. And it wouldn’t be as captivating and inspiring without Aoi at the helm.


10. Subaru Natsuki

Subaru Natsuki from Re:ZERO anime

Anime: Re:ZERO

I guess you could joke that “being Subaru is suffering” — and that’s certainly true.

But Subaru’s journey, while exhausting and seemingly characterized by one disaster after another, is a source of inspiration.

Similar to Kumiko Oumae, he delivers a dramatic scene that sums up how many people in real life feel about themselves whenever things get rough.

Subaru expresses utter self-disdain.

He feels embarrassingly inept and significantly responsible for the demise of others in his life. And there are times when being at rock bottom is exactly where you need to be to rise back up (after all, you can’t go any lower).


9. Homura Akemi

Homura Akemi in Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

No, I didn’t mean to put Subaru Natsuki and Homura Akemi next to each other.

And if you’ve seen both, maybe you prefer Subaru more as an inspiring character.

However, I have to give it up for Homura for being one of the most selfless characters in fiction — ever.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica remains a masterpiece in my eyes, and this is partly because of Homura’s big reveal episode.

If things didn’t go as planned, nobody would’ve known the gargantuan sacrifices she made. But she kept going because she knew that hope would never cease to exist.


8. Kaori Miyazono

Kaori Miyazono from Your Lie in April

Anime: Your Lie in April

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is one of the most successful anime titles of the 2010s — and it’s amazing how more and more people today are introduced to the delightful Kaori Miyazono.

Kaori’s life is far from ideal, especially given her health problems.

But she didn’t let her knowledge of what was to come ruin what she still had in life. Kaori reached for the stars and lived life the way she wanted to.

It didn’t matter if the judges didn’t like how she played the violin — what mattered was that she felt free and happy. And her passion for life was so tremendous that Kaori changed other’s lives for the better as well.


7. Moritaka Mashiro

Moritaka Mashiro from Bakuman anime

Anime: Bakuman.

It’s a weird feeling to notice that Bakuman ended almost a decade ago after three stellar seasons.

This series never failed to put me in hype mode each time the main duo got their priorities straight, moving one step closer to their dream.

Moritaka Mashiro and his (eventual) best friend Akito Takagi make me feel that even the impossible can become possible — and this was through a stressful yet rewarding journey in the manga industry.

If you exert enough effort and passion, you can achieve something big. That even if the odds remain low, what matters is that your goal now lies in the realm of possibilities.

May Ashirogi Muto remain blessed in their endeavors.


6. Shouya Ishida

Shouya Ishida in A Silent Voice anime

Anime: A Silent Voice

Wait, am I making the right decision here? Am I really putting someone who bullied an innocent deaf girl as one of the characters who inspired me the most?

Definitely — Shouya Ishida deserves this spot.

Yes, he was terrible to Shouko Nishimiya. But he clearly regretted his actions and paid the price by also being bullied (and becoming socially excluded from everyone in school).

More importantly, Shouya genuinely wanted redemption from Shouko. And he did everything he could to make peace with her, allowing him to also make peace with himself.

I know I’m not a saint and that I’ve done many shameful things, especially when I was young. To see him challenge himself to become a better person just makes Shouya a huge inspiration to me.


5. Yuugo Hachiken

Yuugo Hachiken from Silver Spoon anime

Anime: Silver Spoon

Yuugo Hachiken is not the only anime character in a well-received slice-of-life series that doesn’t know what he wants to do in life and feels the social pressure, thinking that everyone around him has a clear path laid in front of them.

However, he stands out among the competition because of how he can turn things around.

And his improvement isn’t only for himself but also his (new) community. Even after experiencing a lot of bullying, family pressure, and being tagged as the odd but intelligent guy, Yuugo was still eager to lend a helping hand.

There were many years in college when I had no real career I was seriously interested in. But life is like that sometimes, and you’ll eventually find your way.


4. Eikichi Onizuka

Eikichi Onizuka in Great Teacher Onizuka

Anime: Great Teacher Onizuka

Great Teacher Onizuka is a 43-episode school slice-of-life series from 1999.

The difference here is that the MC is the teacher himself, Eikichi Onizuka.

But that’s not just the interesting aspect of GTO:

Onizuka isn’t your standard type of homeroom teacher — far from it. He was a delinquent and remains to be a proud pervert.

And yet he succeeds to keep his class in check.

He doesn’t just punish them for being chaotic. Instead, Eikichi Onizuka digs into the root causes of social and personal issues in the most unorthodox ways — and it’s such a fun and rewarding experience to see.


3. Tatsuhiro Satou

Tatsuhiro Satou from Welcome to the NHK

Anime: Welcome to the NHK

Welcome to the NHK may not look like your typical inspirational series. It features an MC who’s content with his sad state of living (i.e. being a hikikomori).

Then Misaki Nakahara becomes that tiny spark of hope that’s enough to make Tatsuhiro Satou question what he’s doing with his life, which was basically nothing.

Look, it’s difficult when life pulls you down and forces you to create your own prison.

So whenever Tatsuhiro picks himself up only to fail and then go back for another try at changing his life, I can’t help but feel so proud — and inspired to face my demons, even if I can’t fully exorcise them.


2. Mari Tamaki

Mari Tamaki in A Place Further Than the Universe

Anime: A Place Further Than the Universe

They say that time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.

But what if you start to feel that your youth becomes all the more fleeting with each passing day?

Mari Tamaki’s life is a bit predictable. However, she’s become too comfortable with her daily teenage life.

She knows that this can’t go on forever, but she has trouble sticking to her plans. Mari may try a few new things out, but then her fears of failure and disappointment come crashing down.

This time, however, she’s determined to travel to Antarctica no matter what.

Suffice to say, A Place Further Than the Universe is a masterpiece from the late 2010s. I believe in Maki’s ability to inspire you to get out there and take risks, just by witnessing their journey.


1. Kamina

Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann anime

Anime: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

I suppose you already had Kamina in mind just after reading the headline of this piece.

After all, who can beat Kamina when it comes to sheer insane levels of inspiration?

From “Your drill is the drill that will pierce the heavens!” to “Believe in me who believes in you!”, Kamina is your No. 1 go-to dude for motivation.

The odds were often significantly stacked against them in the legendary original series from Gainax. But it’s as if Kamina’s encouraging words alone could move mountains (and celestial bodies).

If you’re on the lookout for genuinely hype-worthy & outrageous moments that’ll get you ready to take on the world, go ahead and join Kamina and the TTGL gang.

Browse: Anime

R. Romero

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