The 20 Greatest Seinen Anime Protagonists Of All Time, Ranked

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Seinen anime is marketed towards men between the ages of 18 and 40, but it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and genders - with the caveat that some of the content is too mature for young audiences. Because it's marketed to adults, the storylines and characters tend to be complex. That's why seinen features some of the best protagonists in anime

You've probably heard of many of these compelling seinen main characters - few anime fans are unfamiliar with Saitama from One-Punch Man or Ken Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul. But you may not know Caiman from Dorohedoro or Phosphophyllite from Land of the Lustrous. Whether they're underrated or popular for a reason, these characters are among the very best.

Most divisive: Jean Otus - 'ACCA-13'

  • Guts - 'Berserk'
    Photo: Berserk / GEMBA

    Guts may be one of the most iconic characters not just in seinen, but in anime as a whole. This powerful mercenary has led an incredibly challenging life, one that most people would not be able to endure.

    Born from his mother's deceased body, abused by his adoptive father, betrayed by his best friend, and besieged by demonic monsters who are attracted to the brand on his body, he has known great suffering. Still, he finds the strength to continue his mission. 

    497 votes
  • 2
    375 VOTES

    Thorfinn - 'Vinland Saga'

    Thorfinn - 'Vinland Saga'
    Photo: Vinland Saga / Wit Studio

    When we first meet Thorfinn, he's a cheerful little boy with a taste for adventure. When his peace-loving father is tricked into a surprise attack and passes away, Thorfinn is enraged. He dedicates his life to getting revenge on the man who orchestrated his father's demise.

    While this sounds like a fairly typical storyline, Thorfinn stand out as an especially nuanced character. He faces realistic challenges in pursuit of revenge, starting off with simply being too young for anyone to take him seriously and being forced to depend on his enemies for survival. 

    375 votes
  • 3
    273 VOTES

    Alucard - 'Hellsing'

    Alucard - 'Hellsing'
    Photo: Hellsing Ultimate / Madhouse

    If you're looking for a series with a vampire at the helm, look no further than Hellsing. Alucard is terrifying in the best way possible. He joined Hellsing so that he could freely use his abundant vampiric powers on his own kind. Whether it's manipulating gravity or controlling people's minds, he's nearly unbeatable.

    But he's more than just breathtakingly strong - he's also a deeply melancholy being who envies humans and constantly wrestles with religious ideas. 

    273 votes
  • Saitama - 'One-Punch Man'
    Photo: One-Punch Man / J.C. Staff

    Saitama can destroy anything with a single punch. More impressively, he can do it without creating a boring story. The tension in One-Punch Man isn't about whether Saitama will win - it's obvious that he will - but in how he can find meaning in a life where everything comes too easily.

    His existensial crisis combined with his great sense of humor makes him a wonderful seinen protagonist.

    406 votes
  • 5
    207 VOTES

    Kenzo Tenma - 'Monster'

    Kenzo Tenma - 'Monster'
    Photo: Monster / Madhouse

    Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a brilliant surgeon whose life went off the rails when he chose to do what he thought was the right thing. Instead of operating on a politician, he chose to operate on an orphaned child.

    Not only did he tank his own career, but he also ended up saving Johan Liebert, a boy who would one day become a serial killer. Tenma takes it upon himself to find Liebert and bring him to justice. 

    207 votes
  • Ken Kaneki - 'Tokyo Ghoul'
    Photo: Tokyo Ghoul / Studio Pierrot

    When Tokyo Ghoul begins, Ken Kaneki is a mild-mannered college student who wants little more than to read a good book, hang out with his best friend and go on a date with a pretty girl.

    When that date turns into a disaster that leaves him transformed into a flesh-eating ghoul, he's initially horrified and has no idea how to deal with his new reality. As new threats emerge and life gets more dangerous, he's forced to not only get stronger, but also confront the abusive past he tried to repress. His strength, forged by trauma, becomes a weakness as he loses touch with his emotions and his morals. Like all great seinen characters, he's multi-layered and constantly evolving. 

    347 votes