The best anime characters are usually immortalized in fans’ memories and pop culture. Unfortunately, not all characters enjoy this legacy. Despite how well-crafted or historically important they may be, these characters fell into relative obscurity after their anime ended. This is not because they age badly. It’s just that times and tastes changed faster than expected.
These characters were groundbreaking and unique in their prime, but today they are seen as part of the boring norm. Even worse, some of these characters were even mistaken for their successors’ inferior copies. These characters started trends and even entire genres, but they don’t get the respect they deserve from anime fans.
10/10 Light Yagami’s iconic edge buried his complexity
Thanks to his intellect and Death notehis dramatic flair, Light became the definitive anime anti-hero. Light arguably codified the villainous protagonist. Over time, Light became the mascot of edgy and misanthropic power fantasies. This generalization ignores not only Light’s tragedy, but the fact Death note setting him up to fail.
Death note did not celebrate or justify the light’s god complex and narcissism. Instead, it showed how short-sighted and self-destructive these were. Light’s early victories and operatic ways inspired many imitators, and he is recognized as the seminal edgy self-effacing character. However, his downfall and humiliation tend to be forgotten.
9/10 Konata Izumi showed how Otaku characters can be well written
Today, Konata represents everything bad about otaku. To newcomers, Konata’s love of geek culture and her half-witted musings are dated at best and insufferable at worst. Konata is also blamed for inspiring shallow clones that are more otaku wish-fulfillment than characters. These reductions betray Lucky star‘s depths.
Konata was Lucky Starher resident nerd, but she was also a reliable student and the life of her circle of friends. Konata subverted the worst otaku stereotypes while being unapologetic about her interests and quirks. Granted Lucky starher age and the oversaturation of Konata’s archetype, it’s not surprising that her nuances were forgotten.
8/10 Kenshiro wasn’t just an old-fashioned action hero
Fist Of The North Star
Since Fist of the North Star inspired JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Contemporary viewers see it as little more than an outdated macho power fantasy. Kenshiro himself became the epitome of exaggerated masculinity and ridiculously impressive displays of power. However, Kenshiro is not as one-dimensional as most people assume.
Kenshiro wasn’t just an influential action hero. He was also one of the first to cry on screen. This was groundbreaking at a time when emotional vulnerability was a sign of weakness, especially in the male-dominated shonen landscape. Many followed Kenshiro’s example, but his emotional side was overshadowed by his bad reputation.
7/10 Yuno Gasai’s tragedy was overshadowed by her Yandere heritage
Thanks to the many clones Yuno inspired, it’s easy to forget that she was more than just a romantically obsessed killer. Yuno was Future diaryits influential version of the yandere and its secret protagonist. Unfortunately, these were buried by how often Yuno’s facial expressions and love of killing were mimicked.
Yuno only became a yandere because she lost her lover, Yuki Amano, in her home dimension. Arriving in a parallel reality, she killed whoever got in their way. These parts of Yuno’s characterization tend to be ignored. Yuno is now remembered more as a stereotypical and deadly yandere than the tragic one who pioneered the trend.
6/10 The G-Team helped the Gundam extend its range
Mobile suit Gundam Wing
Gundam Wing is the nostalgic Mobile Suit Gundam choice for those who grew up in the 90s, but the nostalgia is somewhat ironic. This mostly derives from the Heero, Duo, Trowa, Quatre and Wufei feel and looks more like out of place shojo characters than mecha pilots. This was not just a conscious choice. It was a necessary one.
Gundam needed a wider audience in the 90s, so Sunrise wrote and designed Gundam Winghis characters with a female demographic in mind. The plan worked. Gundam Wing‘s pilots became some of the franchise’s most recognizable characters, and they influenced other mecha anime to incorporate bishonen characteristics and styles.
5/10 Honey Kisaragi was the first true magical girl
Card Catcher Sakura and Sailor Moon tend to be credited as the seminal magical girl anime, even when they both owe their existence to Sweet honey. In 1973, Honey’s brand of confident sexuality and action was groundbreaking. Today, Cutie Honey is looked down upon as a terrible excuse for fanservice and fighting.
Honeywas reduced to being the bad example of the excesses of the anime medium, and she is barely mentioned today. Case in point, Kill La KillRyuko Matoi gets the credit for paying homage and repeating what Honey already did. Without Honey, magical girls, action heroines and the liberalism of anime would arguably not exist.
4/10 Shinji Ikari’s Anxiety was only appreciated in hindsight
Neon Genesis Evangelion
In 1995 and even now Shinji’s cowardice and timidity Neon Genesis Evangelionits most polarizing parts. It was only decades later that viewers understood that Shinji needed these disparate qualities to be painfully human and realistic. However, this did not stop critics from making Shinji a regular.
Shinji is still considered by some to be the worst mecha protagonist of all time. Shinji also doesn’t get enough credit for inspiring emotional vulnerability and being a regular teenager in future teen heroes. Shinji helped ground anime protagonists and make them more relatable, but this legacy is overshadowed by surface criticism and jokes.
3/10 Miaka Yuuki used to be the definitive modern Shojo & Isekai protagonist
Fushigi Yugi is one of the most influential anime ever made, but it is underappreciated today. The same goes for Miaka, who went from groundbreaking fantasy heroine to stereotypical romantic lead. Miaka isn’t a terrible character, but she is a product of her time. To wit, Miaka exhibits all the stereotypes associated with classic shojo and isekai protagonists.
Miaka is a kind-hearted but impulsive student from the real world who is in constant need of saving. Miaka was also gifted with powerful magic and a love triangle. Future shojo protagonists refined Miaka’s example, and subsequent isekai heroes became more proactive. In short, Miaka was outshone by those she inspired.
2/10 Astro Boy is literally the first anime character
It is not an exaggeration to say that anime owes everything Astro boy. Astro Boy (or Atom) himself deserves just as much credit, as he laid the foundation for how all anime characters are drawn and written. All anime characters are somehow inspired by Astro Boy’s enhanced features, youthful energy, and more.
Anime characters improved so much after Astro Boy’s original 1963 series that he became obsolete in just a few decades. Much like the classic Walt Disney characters that inspired Astro boy creator and mangaka, Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy is more respected as a historical icon and trendsetter than a nostalgic favorite.
1/10 Haruhi Suzumiya is more than a maniacal Pixie Dream Girl
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The manic goblin dream girl is one of the most criticized anime archetypes, and some blame The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to inadvertently start the trend. To critics, Haruhi’s eccentricities, god-like status, and devotion to an obvious audience effort proved how one-dimensional she was.
These ignore Haruhi’s complex arc and justified quirks. Haruhi inspired many wish-granting characters, but she didn’t just exist for vicarious relationships. It didn’t help how quickly Haruhi’s anime fell from grace after a controversial second season. The ensuing vacuum allowed such assumptions to dominate the conversation in the first place.
NEXT: 10 Classic Anime That Just Don’t Hold Up Anymore