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The 20 Greatest Anime Strategists of All Time, Ranked

Updated January 27, 2021 6.3k votes 1k voters 22.9k views20 items

The world of anime needs more than energetic characters who rush unthinkingly into conflict - it also needs characters who are going to look at things analytically. The best anime strategists come up with the plans that keep everything moving and keep those plans from going awry - even if they're dealing with more impulsive counterparts. 

So, who are anime's brightest tacticians? Most people will immediately think of Light Yagami and L, Shikamaru Nara, Lelouch Lamperouge, and Sousuke Aizen. These guys are incredible, but they aren't the only strategic geniuses out there. There's Toua Tokuchi from One Outs, whose brilliance keeps him making money in the world of simplified baseball. There's also Rock from Black Lagoon, whose unconventional strategies make him an invaluable part of his criminal team. There's plenty more where that came from, too.

Vote for the strategy expert you'd most like to consult with.

  • 1

    Light Yagami & L - Death Note

    Photo: Madhouse

    This series actually has enough brilliant strategic minds that they could fill out half the list. For now, we'll shine the spotlight on the two protagonists - Light Yagami, who tried to become the god of the new world using a carefully laid plan and a magic notebook, and L, a world-renowned detective who knew exactly what he was up to and came this close to stopping him.

    Brilliant tactician?
  • Photo: Sunrise

    Lelouch is a child of the Brittanian Empire. Both because of how the royal family treated him and his sister and because of straight-up moral outrage about colonization, Lelouch takes it upon himself to free Japan from its tyrannical grip. To do that, he takes on a new identity as a guerilla fighter named Zero - but it'll take a whole lot of shrewd thinking and personal sacrifice to get himself, and the country, where he wants to go. 

    Brilliant tactician?
  • Shikamaru Nara cut his teeth on strategic thinking by playing shogi with his dad, and his skills have gone wild from there. Every time a mission calls for a detailed strategy, he's the go-to guy - which is how he eventually ended up becoming the hokage's right hand man. 

    Brilliant tactician?
  • 4

    Sora & Shiro - No Game No Life

    Photo: Madhouse

    In their own world, Sora and Shiro were a two-person call of video game experts who won handily at everything they tried - but when it came to real life, they could barely get through a conversation. That's why travelling to Disboard was such a boon for them - there, everything was determined by the high-skill strategic games they excelled at.

    Brilliant tactician?