15 Most Mysterious Anime Characters Of All Time

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In character writing and storytelling, you need to plan well and plan ahead. Refusing to do so can lead to viewers feeling that some turn of events is nonsensical — a mere hodgepodge of deus ex machina and plot holes.

And so this is one crucial reminder about crafting characters:

It’s not always enough to forego nearly all pieces of information to turn them into intriguing people. This worked for TK from Angel Beats, but he’s more of the exception rather than the rule.

Well for this list I’m ranking individuals in anime that have the right to be called mysterious.

Some entries unravel as you watch more and more episodes, while others remain largely enigmatic.


15. Koro-sensei

Koro-sensei from Assassination Classroom anime

Anime: Assassination Classroom

Let me begin with one of the most fascinating shounen MCs ever.

Koro-sensei is a teacher, but he also destroyed part of the moon, forever making it crescent-shaped.

His class needs to kill him before he annihilates the entire planet.

Koro-sensei is big (relative to his students and the average human being), tentacled, and yellow. He often wears this huge, big-toothed smile — and you just know he’s special because of his cartoonish eyes that are basically two dots.

Assassination Classroom is home to one very mysterious character, sure.

However, it’s Koro-sensei who’ll keep you guessing right from the first episode. And this great show has 47 episodes.


14. Ryoji Kaji

Ryoji Kaji in Neon Genesis Evangelion

Anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion

He’s not the first or even one of the first ten characters I recall when someone mentions Evangelion.

But it would be a disservice to not include him here.

Yes, everyone from Gendo Ikari to Kaworu Nagisa is mysterious.

Yet I truly admire how the creators took to establishing (and initially concealing) the identity of Ryoji, a man who easily falls from the spotlight when others are in the scene.

Ryoji Kaji is cool, flirty, always seemingly relaxed — and yet there’s this tangible unease about his true intentions. He’s caught in this tangle of espionage and personal motivations.

Even when Ryoji is out of the story and you already know what he does, his mystery as a person lingers.


13. Ging Freecss

Ging Freecss Hunter x Hunter anime screenshot

Anime: Hunter x Hunter

I distinctly remember the frustration and fulfillment of seeing Gon’s father in the 1999 anime adaptation. Ging Freecss is the biggest reason why Gon set out to become a Hunter, yet all I got were mere glimpses, essentially teasers, of this guy.

The 2011 Madhouse adaptation was then a much-welcomed announcement. It offered way more time in disentangling the mystery of Ging Freecss.

Then again, I initially did not like his personality.

Some of his actions are worth criticizing, to be honest. One can only imagine what would’ve happened to Gon if he wasn’t as tenacious as his dad.

But looking at his decision-making from another perspective, Ging is admirable for believing in his son’s capacity to improve and achieve his goals no matter what.


12. Hei

Hei from Darker than Black anime

Anime: Darker than Black

Darker than Black could’ve been one of the best original anime of the 2010s, but the second season took a significantly different path — and many fans were not in favor.

In contrast, I’m actually a big fan of Season 2.

It’s not as impressive overall as the first (or even the exceptional OVAs). But the sequel further improved Hei as a solid, complex, and ultimately human MC, all the while creating more questions about him and the people (or entities) in his life.

I still have no full idea about his past or even the organizations he’s working for or fighting against.

Still, Darker than Black is a story compelling enough to make me view BK-201’s remaining mystery as part of his charm.


11. Nine and Twelve (Sphinx)

Nine and Twelve (Sphinx) in Terror in Resonance

Anime: Terror in Resonance

Zankyou no Terror remains as my favorite Shinichiro Watanabe project yet, despite its discernible flaws.

The main duo of Nine and Twelve have a story tightly wrapped in mystery — and yet it feels like you’ve been with them for years on the first episode alone.

You can point to Watanabe’s direction and MAPPA’s execution for how the show managed to do that.

These two young guys effortlessly evoke a sense of loneliness, pain, anger, and a longing for something.

Viewers never really know what this thing is, but somehow, you can empathize with Sphinx when their minds seem to drift off and they look out into the distance.

I truly love this show, and I hope you give it a try, even just to appreciate Nine and Twelve.


10. Mystogan

Mystogan from Fairy Tail anime

Anime: Fairy Tail

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Fairy Tail.

But Mystogan being on my list is proof that the series did at least one thing very well.

He’s always been this odd guild member of Fairy Tail, someone who absolutely does not want even his comrades to see his face. Mystogan casts sleeping magic just to make nearly everyone in the guild fall asleep when he’s about to enter.

Despite this, he’s a valuable member (and powerful S-Class mage) who helps a lot when necessary.

But then his peers see his real identity — or are they mistaken? His story is one for the books, and I’ve seen many posts in forums over the years asking for clarification about Mystogan’s true self.


9. Claire Stanfield

Claire Stanfield from Baccano anime

Anime: Baccano!

Baccano is a wild story with an equally wild (and large) set of characters.

Ryohgo Narita, author of the light novel series, should be mighty proud of this adaptation.

Claire Stanfield is the train conductor of the Flying Pussyfoot. He’s arguably good-looking, well-suited, and sincere, not ever shy about giving praise and criticism alike.

But he’s more than just the so-called Young Conductor and a fascinating storyteller of The Rail Tracer.

Some shows get overwhelmingly complex with their big reveals. But there are times when the most obvious route becomes the most surprising one.


8. Kyon

Kyon in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

To be honest, I was confused when my sibling made me watch this Kyoto Animation classic for the first time.

There were no usual character introductions in the first episode, and it all seemed random to me.

Then I realized that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was intentionally first broadcasted on TV in a non-chronological order.

It was a strange yet overall delightful experience.

So it’s only fitting that Kyon is the MC, the guy serving as the viewers’ point-of-view. See, Kyon is also a weird guy — but it’s a wonderful thing that he is.

The light novel writer said he’s an ordinary human.

But his real name was never revealed. “Kyon” is just a name given by his aunt — and, similarly, no one knows the name of his sister either.

There are certain events in the series that can make you wonder about his identity and connection to Haruhi.


7. Izaya Orihara

Izaya Orihara from Durarara anime

Anime: Durarara!!

Baccano and Durarara have the same author, so it makes sense that another character by Ryohgo Narita is on my list.

Izaya Orihara oozes coolness and mystery.

Some may say he’s unbearably edgy or pesky.

He’s even been regarded as one of the finest examples of an online troll in anime history.

Yet Izaya is difficult to despise.

He makes things all the more interesting in Ikebukuro for the rest of the cast (this is how he expresses his love for humans), and he has no problems getting someone as physically dominant as Shizuo Heiwajima all riled up.

And I just love how he gets his way by being an information broker.


6. Kusuriuri

Kusuriuri from Mononoke anime

Anime: Mononoke

The MC of Toei Animation’s original series Mononoke (not to be mistaken with Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke) looks interesting, to say the least.

Nobody knows what kind of creature he is. He has pointy ears, pale skin, and a face that’s more a hybrid of a human and a fox.

And do you know the best part?

His name isn’t even Kusuriuri — that’s merely the term for a medicine seller. You follow him for 12 entire episodes without knowing such a basic yet crucial detail.

But even with these lingering questions, I still enjoy watching this bandana-wearing, katana-carrying guy conduct his unique job.


5. Lelouch vi Britannia

Lelouch vi Britannia in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Anime: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Millions of people know by now how much of a crazy and uncompromising genius Lelouch is.

However, what if you were in the anime as an ordinary citizen?

From that point of view, you may not even consider Lelouch as mystifying as he really is. To the masses, it would’ve been impossible for Lelouch to be the masked vigilante.

And that’s the magic of Code Geass.

Here’s a guy who yearned for world peace so badly that he was willing to give up his other identity and make the greatest sacrifice (with help of a dear friend). Lelouch is such a well-written character.


4. L

L from Death Note anime

Anime: Death Note

Death Note is no longer as popular as it was back in the latter 2000s. But I firmly believe that it’s still one of the best shounen and thriller anime series ever — and this has to do with its main characters.

Light Yagami and L Lawliet are fascinating individuals.

Whenever these two brilliant minds clash, their battle of wits feels more breathtaking than fight scenes filled with explosions and falling meteors.

There’s no denying it:

L is one of the best detectives in anime history and is easily one of the most secretive characters as well.

Death Note wouldn’t be as successful without him — he’s even more popular today than Light Yagami.


3. The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo in Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Anime: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Yes, it’s based on Alexandre Dumas’s 1844 novel. No, it’s not set in the 19th century.

While Gankutsuou is an adaptation of the book, it goes for a sci-fi setting in the year 5053 and introduces a few changes.

What remains, however, are the central themes of the classic novel.

The Count of Monte Cristo is out for revenge, although he paid a big price for this opportunity. Nothing drives him more to continue living than the slightest chance of exacting retribution.

But there are messages of trust, forgiveness, and self-realization too.

It’s riveting to see everything unfold as the Count unveils his true colors to those who think he’s just a ridiculously rich gentleman, all the while realizing his own fate may not exactly be set in stone.


2. Johan Liebert

Johan Liebert from Monster anime

Anime: Monster

Monster is a cold, terrifying series.

It’s a story told in 74 masterfully directed and suspenseful episodes — and Johan Liebert is key to its acclaim.

John almost died when he was young, shot in the head and in dire need of surgery.

Thankfully the neurosurgeon Dr. Kenzou Tenma saves his life. He was told to operate on the town mayor instead, but he wanted to clear his conscience and save the lad.

Dr. Tenma’s reputation was temporarily tarnished because of this decision. But he did the right thing — right?

Then things start taking a diabolical, violent turn, and so Dr. Tenma (and you, the viewer) must scramble to unfurl Johan Liebert’s psyche, even if it seems to be a lost cause.


1. Lain Iwakura

Lain Iwakura from Serial Experiments Lain anime

Anime: Serial Experiments Lain

Here’s the thing about this legendary series from the same era as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop:

You’ll still have burning questions about Lain Iwakura and the world around her when you’re done with all 13 episodes.

No amount of spoilers will keep you from wondering about Lain and her actions. It’s a testament to the writing and the aural and visual excellence of the series.

When you’re done pondering on digital technology and its socio-psychological implications, you’ll delve into religious and philosophical discussions.

Lain looks like any other awkward Japanese teenager.

But no one is truly like her — no one else in anime has a mystery as engrossing as hers.

Browse: Anime

R. Romero

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