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10 Best Supporting Characters In Anime

Anime Sidekicks Get Their Due

By Mark Thomas     January 25, 2010

10 Best Supporting Characters In Anime
© Mania/Bob Trate


Regardless of how well a plot is constructed, a story is often only as strong as its characters. Good characters can make a weak story seem better, while poor characters can kill even the tightest of stories. But while the protagonist often gets most of the love—only natural as he/she is the focal point of the story—it is often the characters that surround the protagonist that are more memorable. Today, we have a look at 10 of our favorite secondary characters whose absence would leave a huge hole in their respective titles.

10. Mr. Yotsuya – Maison Ikkoku

You are a fiasco awaiting a venue.”
With one, short sentence, the enigmatic Mr. Yotsuya sums up Godai’s existence and the general nature of life in Maison Ikkoku. Yotsuya lives in room 4 at Maison Ikkoku and—along with Akemi and Mrs. Ichinose—refuses to let Godai have a moment’s peace, often barging through a self-made hole in the wall between their rooms in order to taunt and goad Godai. He plays pranks, intentionally gets Godai in trouble with Kyoko, and generally has no shame. And through it all, nobody can ever figure out anything about his life outside of Ikkoku. He is a complete mystery. However, though it takes seven years, his acerbic machinations do ultimately have a higher purpose: in having to constantly deal with Yotsuya, Godai’s backbone slowly solidifies to the point where he starts acting on his infatuation with Kyoko rather than dreaming about it. Of course, whether Yotsuya actually intended that is also a mystery.

9. Chiba – Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

“I’m just a guy who hates assholes like you who think they can push people around.”
The lead vocalist for Beck, Chiba provides the attitude for the band that neither the laid-back Ryusuke and Taira nor the fresh-faced Koyuki and Saku can provide. Though Koyuki takes over as vocalist for some of the softer music such as Face or Slip Out, Chiba provides the raw energy and anger for Beck’s punk roots, bringing pure attitude to songs like Brainstorm and By Her. But for all of Chiba’s outward belligerence, he is actually the most sensitive member of the group and has trouble keeping a lid on his emotions. He stands up for his bandmates—as evidenced by his willingness to get into a fight with a man twice his size to prevent Koyuki from being bullied—but he is also insecure about his place in the band as he does not play any instruments, and Koyuki is a better singer. Though Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad focuses most of its attention on Koyuki, Chiba’s search for self-acceptance is just as fascinating, not to mention important, to the future of Beck.

8. Inspector Zenigata – Lupin III

“You can’t get away, Lupin! This plan is fool-proof…huh? Lupin?”
The Inspector Clouseau to Lupin’s Phantom, INTERPOL’s Inspector Zenigata spends his life hot on the trail of the world-renowned master thief, only to continually lose that same trail time and again as Lupin outsmarts him. The scene: Lupin tracks down a rare and invaluable treasure and attempts to steal it. Zenigata learns of Lupin’s mark and sets forth to capture Lupin in the act, often by laying a trap. But rather than capture Lupin, Zenigata usually bungles the operation and allows Lupin to escape, meaning he is on the chase once again. Sometimes, like in Miyazaki’s masterful Count of Cagliostro, Zenigata is forced to temporarily join forces with Lupin to escape a dangerous situation they have both found themselves in. But in each case, Zenigata comes up with a plan to make sure he takes Lupin into custody when they escape, only for Lupin to get away once again. He is Lupin’s foil, and it is their interaction that produces much of the humor in the series. He so clumsy, that sometimes it is hard not to feel sorry for him, but his determination to bring Lupin shows the side of him that will never quit.

7. Kagura – Azumanga Daioh

“You’re lucky. You guys have this sort of freedom about you.”
In a lot of ways, Kagura is the sixth wheel of the group of friends that Azumanga Daioh centers around. With Chiyo, Osaka, Tomo, Yomi, and Sakaki taking up five spots, the group feels oddly incomplete until Kagura joins their class permanently roughly a third of the way in. But despite being part of the main group, Kagura also stands apart as she is the only one of the gang that has something going for her outside of her school work: athletics. She is not book-smart, like Chiyo, Yomi, or Sakaki, but she is definitely more life-smart than Osaka or Tomo, and she understands her strengths and weaknesses far more than any of the other characters. And when the series comes to a close, she is the only one outside of Sakaki that has a firm idea of what she wants to do with her life after high school. She is not above having some fun and acting silly, but she tempers it with some real thoughtfulness and depth.


6. Lt. Yamamoto – Irresponsible Captain Tylor

“He really is just an idiot! What’s wrong with the military? I would gladly sacrifice myself for the force, but I cannot work under this fool!”
If Zenigata is the Clouseau to Lupin’s Phantom, then Yamamoto can be considered to be the Zenigata to Tylor’s Lupin, even though they actually work together. As Tylor’s first officer on the Soyokaze (and straight man to Tylor’s comedic foil), Yamamoto continually takes it upon himself to right what he perceives as Tylor’s wrongs, typically to disastrous results. As the series progresses, and he begins to see Tylor’s peculiar brand of genius working, Yamamoto starts to question his long standing beliefs right up until Tylor does something else completely insane, and Yamamoto reverts to loathing his commanding officer. As with Zenigata, Yamamoto’s interactions with Tylor provide much of the humor of the series, but where his character really shines is late in the series when he finds the fine line between staying true to his beliefs and accepting Tylor as his captain. In a subtle way, when he finds this balance, he begins to carry the series more than Tylor, as the crew begin to look at him as a leader and Tylor trusts Yamamoto more to do right by them all.

5. Nabeshin – Excel Saga

“Just count on me girls! Explosions fix everything!”
The animated avatar of anime director Shinichi Watanabe, known for his rather large afro, the well-coifed Nabeshin has appeared in numerous anime, generally parodying other directors who make appearances in their anime. But it is his reoccurring role in the insane Excel Saga for which he is best known. Nabeshin has two roles in Excel Saga. The first is during the metafictional openings of each episode, where he always has an argument with series creator, Koshi Rikdo, about the direction of the series. These arguments always end the same: with Nabeshin bribing Rikdo into agreeing to whatever insanity he has planned for the episode. But Nabeshin has another side: as a Lupin III parody vigilante who acts the part of the cool criminal (like Lupin) but whose over-the-top methods and antics are pure Excel Saga. His main purpose is to help Pedro in his quest to re-win the heart of Pedro’s Sexy Wife from the villainous Gomez, though Nabeshin’s efforts tend to backfire. But that does not stop Nabeshin from continuing to try.

4. Lt. Brenten/Britain – Dominion Tank Police

“Now pin your ears back and listen to me: we get a crime of some kind every 36 seconds within the precincts we patrol. My main job as Tank Police Commander is make sure it won’t raise to one every 35 seconds. Get it?”
The antagonistic lieutenant of Newport’s Tank Police division, Brenten (mistranslated as Britain in the English anime dubs) provides all of the justification for the violence that the Tank Police carry out. A life subscriber to “How to Kill” magazine, Brenten is not above authorizing all manner of torture in order to get information out of criminals, usually involving the use of a grenade in the mouth. But for all of his outward appearances as a hard-ass, Brenten wears his heart on his sleeve and often lets his emotions get the better of them, whether they are anger or embarrassment. And despite it all, he can always be counted on for one thing: loyalty to the people under his command. If you are not with him, he is against you. But if you prove your worth, then he will defend you forever.

3. Puuchan – Best Student Council

“I swear, you women will trust anyone. You’re all hopeless!”
Puuchan is the oldest—not to mention only—friend of the ditsy Rino Rando, a young girl who has had nothing resembling an easy life, but whose fortunes are looking up now that she has been mysteriously accepted to the very prestigious Miyagami Private Academy. Puuchan is foul mouthed and not afraid to tell it like it is, not to mention a little chauvinistic, but with him next to her side, Rino can get up the courage to face any problems head on. Puuchan will always protect her, even if he does not always seem sympathetic. Wait… did I mention that Puuchan is also an autonomous puppet that lives on Rino’s right hand? Yes, this odd looking hand puppet, who initially seems only to be an odd quirk of Rino’s personality, is actually brought to life by ancient magic that resides in Rino’s family, and he has dedicated himself to making sure that Rino never stumbles in life. He brings a lot of the fun and joy to Best Student Council, and without him, Rino would never be able to get by.

2. Bruce J. Speed – Galaxy Railways

“You’re a hindrance, Yuuki! You can thank me by going home!”
One of the crew members of the Big One in the Space Defense Force, Bruce is the assigned partner the new recruit Manabu Yuuki. For a long time, Bruce is openly antagonistic towards Manabu for seemingly no reason, and absolutely refuses to be civil to him in any way. Manabu eventually discovers that Bruce carries the unfortunate nickname of “Toxic Bruce.” He acquired this nickname as every partner he has ever had in the SDF has died at his side during a mission. It is said that he is cursed, and that anybody who is assigned to be his partner has just received a death warrant. It is for this that Bruce refuses to accept Manabu, because he believes that the best way to keep Manabu alive is to push him away. Bruce’s story—which sees him struggle and finally be forced to accept his past before he can move on—is one of the better character arcs in an anime full of them, and it makes his death at the hands of a random thug all the more heartbreaking.

1. Nicholas D. Wolfwood – Trigu

“We're nothing like God. Not only do we have limited powers, but sometimes we're driven to become the devil himself. What's your answer this time?”
A former assassin, Wolfwood is now a religious bounty hunter who works to raise money for the children in an orphanage he runs. He carries a large cross on his back, ostensibly as a symbol of the weight of the sins he has to bear, but the cross hides some of his weapons and even converts into a large gun when he needs lit. He works with Vash when they first meet, but soon finds himself at odds with The Stampede as Vash vehemently disagrees with Wolfwood’s theory that he must kill in order to protect the children. Though they never openly oppose one another, Vash and Wolfwood cross paths quite frequently, each time with Wolfwood opening up a little bit more to Vash’s more pacifistic ways. Wolfwood’s transformation from a murderous preacher with a dark past into the man of peace he always wanted to be has many moving moments and is one of the greater victories in Vash’s journeys.

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Showing items 1 - 7 of 7
Keith 1/25/2010 12:40:48 AM

Hmm, a coincidence that Sho Hyami voices 2 characters on this list? :)

BunyonSnipe 1/25/2010 4:28:09 AM

Hmmm, was gonna ask where Jigen was, but Zenigata is a great choice for Lupin III, too...

animefanjared 1/25/2010 6:32:12 AM

I think the next in this series of lists should be dedicated to the best anime ensembles, shows where the characters work and interact in such perfect harmony that to remove any one of them would be detrimental to the show.  This would allow the inclusion of shows like "Cowboy Bebop," which has fascinating characters, but none of them stick out enough to merit inclusion on a list like this made of single characters.

abynum5 1/25/2010 6:56:55 AM

Lt. Yamamoto is indeed the straight man, and I guess the charm in this archetype is that he's fully aware of it as well.  His largest character flaw is that he's often too busy trying to please everyone, including Duty personified, that he often forgets what it means to simply have faith.

I remember being a little torn on Bruce's character in GALAXY RAILWAYS.  I think the anime is great, as the drama superbly crescendoes toward the end, but it's important to note that his Angel of Death character-type is not uncommon in military-themed anime.  That aside, Bruce's character is intriguing beyond this, because Bruce is a complete jerk... but he's infinately reliable in the field.  He's an easy character to hate, in spite of how intelligent and resourceful he is.

Puuchan is a pretty deceptive character, which makes BEST STUDENT COUNCIL all the more fun.  His little snipes at Rino's classmates and insights into what it's like living on your own carry their own weight when the time is right. 

Calibur454 1/25/2010 7:23:27 AM

Um what happened to characters from shows like cowboy bebop and Ah my goddess. I actually like the list but these should have been added somewhere. Most of these charachters are from old school anime not some of the later so if that's the case then the list is fine.

wetmaker 1/25/2010 3:18:53 PM

No Vegeta???

kow626_home 1/26/2010 12:50:31 PM

trigu? i know what trigun is, but trigu...?



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