Anime series where the main character seems destined to defeat their opponents without conflict are quite often uncompelling. Sure, One-Punch Man makes it work, but not every anime can be One-Punch Man. In most cases, underdog characters who don't seem like they can possibly win are the ones that get viewers invested. It may seem like they won't ever achieve their dreams, but when they finally do, victory never tasted sweeter.
If they fail, it's tragically heartbreaking, as their will to power makes viewers want to see them persevere. The best underdog anime characters can make fans feel like they accomplished something alongside them, as an unexpected victory is universally gratifying.
Yuuri Katsuki — Yuri!!! On ICE
Yuuri Katsuki, the protagonist of Yuri!!! on ICE, starts off the series in a deep depression brought on by his embarrassing performance in a skating competition. He's out of shape, directionless, and spends most of his time moping around his parents' house. Things begin to pick up when his idol, pro skater Victor Nikiforov, takes it upon himself to train Yuuri for the next Grand Prix. Over time, Yuuri improves his skills, gets a handle on his mental health issues, and actually ends up getting engaged to his new coach.570214Are you rooting for this character?
Most characters in One Piece have incredible supernatural abilities, except for Usopp. Unlike the rest of the pirate crew, Usopp is a relatively ordinary human being who doesn't gain any special abilities until deep into the series. His unexceptional persona is exactly what pushes viewers to root for him. He's easier to relate to than the inhumanly powerful Luffy.984416Are you rooting for this character?
Moriko Morioka — Recovery Of An MMO JunkiePhoto: Recovery of an MMO Junkie / Signal. MD
Moriko Morioka of Recovery of an MMO Junkie quits her corporate job to play video games full-time. While this might be a pipe dream for many working stiffs, it's not exactly the sign of someone who is doing alright mentally. Sure, she's having fun gaming, but she's not maintaining a social life, exercising, or earning any money. When Moriko starts moving towards a romantic relationship that might help pull her out of her slump, viewers can't help but root for her to turn her life around.337129Are you rooting for this character?
Tomoko Kuroki — No Matter How I Look At It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Unpopular!
No Matter How I Look At It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Unpopular! is unique, as it features an underdog protagonist who never actually accomplishes any of her goals. Tomoko Kuroki is a high school student who wants desperately to be popular, but her social anxiety and abysmal interpersonal skills keep her from making any progress in that department. Despite her total social incompetence, it's hard not to hope that her next ridiculous scheme will actually get her some friends. Or, at the very least, that her next bad idea won't be straight out of a dating sim.277151Are you rooting for this character?