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The 15 Best Supporting Protagonists In Anime History, Ranked

August 24, 2020 4.3k votes 1.1k voters 39.0k views15 items

If you ever had to read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald in high school, you understand the concept of a secondary protagonist. These characters are the ones whose viewpoint we follow throughout most or all of the series, but they aren't necessarily the characters who are most important to the story. That doesn't mean they aren't important - in fact, many of these shows couldn't function without them - but they aren't the heroes whose actions drive the biggest part of the plot. 

Some of the best supporting protagonists in anime are characters like Luffy from One Piece and Kirito from Sword Art Online. Though they're both incredibly important in their respective universes, they often move backstage to make room for other characters, sometimes during whole arcs. There are also characters like Yotaro from Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Chiyo Sakura from Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun who are usually in the spotlight to help tell someone else's story. 

Which character do you think does the best job with their role?

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  • Natsu Dragneel is the obvious hero of Fairy Tail -- he's the one who takes action most often, and he's the one who usually fights the major villains. While it's not like we never get to see his inner workings, the viewpoint character is frequently his fellow Fairy Tail member Lucy Heartfilia. 

    This might be because Lucy is a writer in-universe, and the series is framed as if it might actually be Lucy's story. If that's the case, it only makes sense that it's told from her perspective! 

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  • Kagome Higurashi - 'Inuyasha'
    Photo: Sunrise

    It likely doesn't come as a surprise that the character with the most impact on the plot of Inuyasha is, well, Inuyasha. He's the one with a personal vendetta against Naraku, and he's the one who does most of the fighting. But while Kagome isn't necessarily the most active warrior, she has a key role to play. Unlike Inuyasha, who can only collect the shards of the Shikon Jewel, Kagome can purify them. So while she does come 'second' to Inuyasha in terms of battle prowess and heroic action, the story couldn't happen without her.

    Plus, as the viewpoint character, she adds some much needed perspective to an emotionally fraught conflict. 

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  • 3

    Hiyori Iki - 'Noragami'

    When a god saves Hiyori Iki's life, her spirit detaches from her body. In order to keep her spirit where it belongs, she gets help from Yato, the god who helped her out. Yato does odd jobs in order to gain worshippers and earn enough money to build himself a temple. Helping out Hiyori is just another job for him.

    While we see much of the story unfold through Hiyori's eyes, her request and her story isn't the most important thing about the world of Noragami. Rather, it's Yato's quest towards godhood, and his dark past, that is the true heart of the series. 

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  • While there's no doubt that Luffy does play the primary hero role multiple times throughout the series, there are many many times where he rotates into a more secondary role. Depending on the arc, the protagonist might be someone completely different: for example, Nami is the protagonist of the Arlong Park arc, and Usopp is the center of the Syrup Village arc. While Luffy is usually the one to take on the big bad, the series often spends substantial time on its other characters.

    But even more important than Luffy or any other individual character is the wider world of the One Piece universe. Developing political conflicts and lore often comes before anything to do with Luffy. That's part of what makes the series so cool.

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