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20 Anime Characters With The Best Character Development

Updated July 23, 2020 27.7k votes 6.6k voters 151.8k views20 items

List RulesVote up the characters who grew and changed in the most satisfying ways.

Watching static anime characters go through a new adventure each episode makes for a relaxing, if safe, viewing experience - who doesn't have a soft spot for Ash Ketchum? But when it comes to characters who truly stick with you, they tend to be well-developed anime characters: protagonists and supporting characters who change and grow over the course of a series. Anime characters with great development arcs add another reason to engage in a particular movie or series. Sometimes, even a supporting character surpasses the protagonist with a more compelling arc than the man character's. 

Such characters undergo major changes in their personalities, approaches to life, and their relationships, emerging as different people by the finale. Anime characters with excellent character development appear across genres. You might remember Dragon Ball Z as a mindless fighting show, but Vegeta exemplifies the change from villain to hero by the end of the show. Great development also occurs in more realistic storylines - Seishuu Handa goes from an anxious workaholic to a relatively well-rounded person over the course of Barakamon

Sometimes, it's not the journey or the destination that make an anime great, but the characters who carry you through them.

  • The homunculus Greed arrives in the world with the sole purpose of serving Father, an extraordinarily powerful being who fancies himself a god. Greed embodies the deadly sin he's named for - he wants everything from money to power, and doesn't care what he must do to get it. He takes over Ling's body without sparing a single consideration for Ling as an individual. 

    But as he and Ling get to know each other, Greed actually finds himself caring about something other than his own appetites and desires. This is totally foreign to his nature, but he eventually cares about Ling so much that he allows himself to be absorbed and killed in order to protect Ling from dying too. His is a journey from subservient selfishness to free self-sacrifice.

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  • Vegeta is one of the most renowned anime characters in any genre, and that's largely because of his character development. Over the course of Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta undergoes a drastic transformation. He enters the series an angry, self-serving villain who kills anyone who displeases him, even his allies. When it comes to emotions, he feels none beyond anger and smug satisfaction. 

    Things change dramatically as he spends more time around the Z-Fighters. Vegeta forms genuine bonds with other people, including a romantic one with Bulma and a even mutually respectful friendship with Goku. He fathers two children for whom he cares deeply. Not only that, but he actually shares moments of emotional vulnerability - he talks about how losing his entire race and enduring childhood abuse at the hands of Frieza impacted him. 

    The man he starts as would have murdered the man he became, but the man he became was far better than his former self could ever understand. 

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  • When viewers meet Yona, she's a pampered princess a wealthy kingdom. This princess fails to realize, however, that her Kingdom of Kouka isn't as peaceful as it appears from her protected palace view. When her cousin suddenly assassinates her father, her life is in danger, and she's forced to flee.

    As she learns more about life outside the palace, she discovers the mass injustice her people contend with while stripped of her own lavish lifestyle. At first, she struggles without the luxuries to which she'd grown accustomed, but she eventually pulls herself together and gets to work trying to help fix the corruption, poverty, and other problems that plague her kingdom. Where she was once a spoiled child, she becomes an altruistic and effective leader determined to reform the institutions harming her citizens. 

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  • Originally, Kenshin Himura was the Battosai, a skilled assassin who took countless lives. Though he initially did this in order to bring about peace, he came to realize that his actions did nothing of the sort - in fact, they only created more chaos and pain.

    He decided that he would dedicate himself to a peaceful existence, trading in his sharp sword for the reverse-bladed Sakabato, which is nearly incapable of causing fatal wounds. Though he will fight if absolutely necessary, Kenshin eventually learns to try and talk through conflicts and resolve them peacefully, illustrating just his profound pivot from warrior to pacificist. 

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