What keeps people watching anime? No, not the fan service you perv (seriously, Dave, we've talked about this) -- it's the characters! Sure, the action is what gets you hooked; the drama is what keeps you tuning in; the dance numbers get stuck in your head for days; and the costumes are the reason you learn how to work a sewing machine, but it's the characters that we fall in love with. Everyone loves a hero, but it's a shame that so many great anime characters are sidelined just out of the spotlight. Any jamoke can be a fan of Goku or Sasuke, but it takes a true fan to love Mr. 3 from One Piece. Below are 10 of the most underrated supporting characters in all of anime.
Rock Lee lives in a world where everyone knows the magical art of Ninjutstu, and yet he kicks in heads with martial arts. Do you know how tough Rock has to be to beat up a ninja-wizard with his bare hands? At least as tough as like, hunk of dense minerals from the crust of the earth. You know, a stone.
Premiering in episode 21, Rock Lee captured the hearts and minds of Naruto's fan with his lawful good charm and an unwavering belief in right and wrong. He's the white knight of the Leaf Village, defending the defenseless and trying to push his limits in order to get stronger, all while dealing with the unerring disrespect of everyone else in the village. Rock Lee is more Naruto than Naruto, who goes from picked on-underdog to THE MOST IMPORTANT MAN ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
His emotional fight with Gaara was the highlight of the Chunin exams. Lee fights valiantly against a stronger, more ruthless opponent, only to have an arm and leg broken for his troubles. Even after he's knocked unconscious, Lee still stands up and wants to continue the fight. If it wasn't for his teacher, The Mighty Guy, stepping in, Lee would have kept fighting until Gaara buried him in his own bush-brow sand coffin. It takes real dedication to march on even when you know you're going to lose (especially when everyone tells you that you're going to lose), but Rock Lee keeps fighting because he graduated at the top of his class from the Bowl-Cut School of Badass. Though a mainstay in the original Naruto, Rock Lee shared the fate of many of his fellow first season standouts when it came to Shippuden. From then on, he was relegated the background as the series became the Naruto and Sasuke show, watching other cooler looking characters fight. We call this "The Krillin Effect."
Trigun really should have been about this guy instead of an ineffably good plant-god with impeccable aim and Mark McGrath hair. Nicholas D. Wolfwood is a complicated character; a preacher/charlatan scratching to survive on the nigh-inhospitable world in the shadows of a broken moon; He is an abuse survivor who, in classic spaghetti western fashion, kills his abuser and becomes an assassin for hire. You know what else? He uses his killin' money to start an orphanage to ensure that no child goes through the pain that he's been through. Yeah. On some Frey Tormenta shit, right?
Initially, Wolfwood works as double agent for the Gung-Ho-Guns, befriending Vash in the desert as part of the plan to betray him on behalf of Knives. After a while, Nicholas serves as Vash's foil in the series, almost like a weird-western Batman to Vash's Superman. His relationship with Millie even reflects that of Vash's relationship with Derringer Meryl, with the exception that Nicholas D. Wolfwood and Millie totally bone a bunch. Also, he carries around a cross that's also a giant gun, and that's pretty rad.
I'm sure some of you guys are already pointing out that the portrayal of Nicholas is different from the manga, but I think he's a much stronger character in the anime. His streamlined story and downplayed regeneration powers made him much more of a human figure in the series. His death at the end of the series is one of the show's highlights and it's still a heartbreaker even today, rivalling that of Cowboy Bebop's tear-jerking "Bang."
Attack on Titan has the kind of body count that could make George R.R. Martin blush. Any time a character is introduced, there's a good chance they won't live to see the end of the episode. Those that do survive are understandably traumatized by the sight of their friends being devoured by unstoppable skyscraper-sized giants. All the skill, ingenuity and craft that humanity is known for goes out the window because the Titans are bigger, stronger and dumber than a bag of Rock Lees.
That's why Zoë is so insanely fascinating. While the lead characters are busy brooding and becoming monster chow, Zoë is trying to figure this shit out.
And nerds love someone with a big brain who is trying to solve an unsolvable problem under impossible circumstances. Zoë is a character you root for. She's diametrically opposite to everyone around her, being bubbly and inquisitive, which brings a much needed contrast to a show that's so oppressively bleak at times. You can bet that she'll figure out this Titan problem soon enough and move onto the really important problems, like getting Sasha some more potatos.