The world of anime is vast and beautiful. It’s filled with all kinds of worlds and characters from various genres, and you’re bound to find one that you fall in love with. Not all characters are created equal though, especially when it comes to protagonists.
A lot of main characters are supposed to be generic so that they can appeal to a broad audience, often forgoing things like in-depth characterization or any sort of development. Main characters are often the simple, optimistic, funny type so that things don’t have to get overly serious.
Anime is filled with interesting and colorful side characters who sometimes steal our hearts more than the main protagonists. Some might even be better in the number one spot. Here’s our list of anime side characters who would make great main characters.
Levi Ackerman – Attack on Titan
While Attack on Titan is filled with badass characters, Levi takes the number one prize. From his stoic nature to his ability to take out numerous Titans in seconds, Levi is often the most interesting character in this anime.
Despite being the quiet type, Levi has a lot of backstory and in-depth relationships that flesh out his character. His relationship with Erwin Smith shows how dedicated he can be to someone even though he’s just a soldier and his time with Kenny Ackerman shows us how Levi becomes so jaded emotionally. Attack on Titan is excellent at making every character feel useful and giving them an adequate amount of screen time, but Levi often soaks up the spotlight. He’s, without a doubt, a fan favorite.
Levi’s emotions could have been brought out a lot more if he went through all the plot revelations that Eren goes through. Imagine Levi as a Titan. On top of his already amazing Titan-killing skills. He’s a well-rounded character with a lot of depth and a show dedicated to him would be awesome.
Gohan – Dragon Ball Z
Although Akira Toriyama stated in Dragon Ball Z Chapter #421 that Gohan would be the main character in the future (at least for that arc), it never really came to fruition. When Goku died at the end of the Cell arc, Gohan was supposed to take over the mantle of head honcho. He didn’t and it feels like a missed opportunity.
Gohan’s personality has a lot more depth due to his desires being quite the opposite to Goku in that he doesn’t enjoy fighting. Gohan would much rather go to school, raise a family, have a good job, and do small-time hero work around the planet. He never has any crazy training arcs nor does he seek out new masters or techniques. Despite being incredibly strong, he can only go Super Sayian 2, which is nothing compared to the gods of Dragon Ball Super.
However, even with this lack of passion, Gohan is constantly thrust into battle to defend his friends and family, often losing due to a lack of training, unlike his father. Piccolo even has to drill it into Goku’s head that Gohan doesn’t like fighting and he isn’t passionate about it like Goku is.
Gohan is also very invested in his relationships, like with Piccolo, Videl, Chi-Chi, and even Goku himself. We get more down-to-earth moments with him and actually see him talk to other characters about more things than just fighting. He’s just a much more human character compared to the rigid, apathetic characters in the Dragon Ball world who only care about fighting.
Shoto Todoroki – My Hero Academia
There are plenty of times throughout My Hero Academia where Todoroki gets the spotlight, and it tends to be pretty amazing. Out of all the side characters in My Hero Academia, he has the most interesting backstory and a great deal of character development.
Shoto is first shown as a quiet kid who stays in the shadows when compared to characters like Deku, Bakugo, and Iida, but we soon learn he has a burning (ha) hatred for his father. Throughout the series, we see Todoroki begin to understand his father more and even develop some kind of relationship with him.
He also shuns the side of his body that uses flames since those powers came from his father. When he begins to understand his father more, he starts using his flame powers. At first, he was antagonistic but then moved away from directing his anger at his classmates. It still never stops him from having honest discussions with people though.
Shoto may be a bit shy, but he’s excellent at interacting with his classmates and has no problem being firm with characters like Midoriya and Bakugo. His relationship with his father, who is also a pro hero, leads to many emotional highs and lows with Shoto and is an example of how the shows about high school students who need to learn harsh life lessons like his father did.
Like other characters in this anime, Todoroki has issues with self-doubt, but it’s not shoved down the viewer’s throat every episode. It’s more subtle. He’s also willing to have his opinions and perspectives challenged and changed, as proven by his relationship with his father.
Shoto also doesn’t have the typical underdog arc that is so prevalent in anime. He’s a powerful character that has a lot to live up to, but he also demands a lot of respect. With Shoto, his future is unknown to us and it makes his development fun to watch. Shoto’s powers may be a bit cliché since it’s just fire and ice, but it’s an interesting combo that leads to some flashy, cool scenes.
Roy Mustang – Full Metal Alchemist
Roy Mustang would be first in line for a replacement main character in Full Metal Alchemist due to how he develops emotionally and how awesome his flame powers are. He’s doesn’t fit the trope of a young, hot-headed kid like most anime protagonists, but he’s still a great character who develops a lot over the series.
Roy starts out as a commander who desires respect despite not doing much besides barking orders. As the series progresses, he starts to listen to those around him, regardless of their title or rank, and his goals as a whole change. At the beginning, he just wants to rule but as the show progresses, he wants to rule to right the wrongs of his predecessors and help everywhere regardless of where they’re from.
Mustang’s relationships and rank within the military are a great social position for a main character. However, his relationship with characters like Alex Armstrong, Riza Hawkeye, and the rest of his team could be significantly expanded as there is a lot of history mentioned with these characters. Still, you don’t get to see a lot of it.
The world of Full Metal Alchemist is filled with great characters who would be fun to watch be in the spotlight, but Roy Mustang is the man with the plan, and watching a driven character is fun and satisfying. It would be fun to watch him work his way up in the military during his younger years and get more into his flame alchemy training.
Rock Lee – Naruto
Naruto is another anime filled with many colorful characters, but Rock Lee would make a fantastic substitute for the main character slot. As one of Naruto’s greatest underdogs, he’s a joy to watch.
Unlike many of the leading players in the Naruto world, Rock Lee doesn’t have any talent when it comes to ninjutsu or genjutsu. So he would instead undergo special training to learn taijutsu from Might Guy.
During his fight with Gaara, Rock Lee’s moves are put to the test and show how interesting he really is. Since he doesn’t have powers like most others do in the Naruto universe, he really has to train his physical powers to overcome obstacles. It also shows just how confident he can be, something rarely shown in younger characters.
His fighting style is unique to the Naruto world, he’s a passionate underdog, and he has some badass moments of his own throughout the series. Everything about his character, in general, is unique, just look at the way his character is designed. So it’s honestly surprising that Rock Lee hasn’t gotten his spin-off show by now.
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