While taking lives is against most people's moral codes, that doesn't always apply when it comes to heroes who are up against dangerous villains. Anime heroes may seek to protect the innocent, but some of them are willing to make exceptions when it comes to villains. It's hard to resolve the high-pressure conflicts that characters in anime often face without resorting to extreme violence, which means that anime characters who don't kill are less common than one might think. Here, we'll focus on those anime characters who have vowed to protect the sanctity of life, even if it costs them their own.
Some of these characters once worked as mercenaries or soldiers, and have vowed to never use their powers to harm another person. These include Kenshin Himura of Rurouni Kenshin and Thors Snorresson of Vinland Saga. Others have no experience with destroying other people but will do everything they can to keep it that way. Not all of these characters succeed at holding up their own code of ethics - Yusuke Urameshi of Yu Yu Hakusho is an example of this - but all of them are trying to their hardest.
Which of these characters do you find the most admirable?
Kenshin Himura used to take lives on a regular basis - he was known as the Hitokiri Battousai, a renowned mercinary who could take out nearly any opponent. His experience left him longing for a more peaceful life, so he became determined to avoid violence of all kinds. However, he can't completely avoid this - his past as a mercinary still comes back to haunt him, and he is occasionally forced to destroy others in order to protect his loved ones. But he'll always seek out a peaceful solution first, and will never go after anybody who doesn't present a direct threat.
Although Vash the Stampede's nickname implies a love for chaos and destruction, he's actually a peace-loving man who desperately tries to lead a life free from destruction. Not only does he hold himself to this standard, he also tries to convince other people to follow suit - including villains and those who have just cause for revenge. Trigun presents this less as a moral positive and more as an exercise in self-destruction on Vash's part. What's more, it's not sustainable, as there are occasions where he has no choice but to compromise his moral system.
Yusuke Urameshi takes this trope to its literal extreme - he won't eliminate humans. Demons, on the other hand, are fair game, despite the fact that he has demon friends who he loves and respects. This isn't unusual in the world of Yu Yu Hakusho, and in fact it's one of its central issues.
Despite his general refusal to take human lives, Yusuke is pushed to the limit with Dr. Kamiya, a human follower of Shinobu Sensui. Dr. Kamiya is a merciless killer who claims that he needs to take lives continuously in order to block out feelings of guilt. He thinks that Yusuke will spare him because of his code of ethics. Yusuke ends up taking him out, but feels absolutely terrible about it afterward.
Monkey D. Luffy refuses to take lives, and it might seem like this is due to kindness. But actually, Luffy just thinks that forcing people to live with the consequences of their actions is a better punishment than taking their lives. He wants his enemies to watch their dreams slip away from them at his hands. If he weren't typically aiming for a positive outcome, he might almost seem like a bad guy with that attitude.