Some anime characters get all the credit, either for breaking new ground or for livening up an already saturated genre. There's no shortage of people who will name Goku, Kirito, Eren Jaeger, and Naruto Uzumaki among their favorites. While the more popular characters certainly have something going for them, there are also plenty of underrated anime heroes who deserve attention, too.
When anime heroes don't get enough attention, it's usually because the series they're featured in isn't extremely popular, as is the case with Yasaburo Shimogamo from The Eccentric Family, and Ahiru from Princess Tutu. Other times, the character exists in a popular series, but isn't acknowledged as one of the greats despite their heroism. Iruka Umino from Naruto and Yuuki Konno from Sword Art Online are perfect examples of this archetype.
It's about time these heroes received the praise they deserve.
When people talk about Naruto's mentors, they're usually talking about Kakashi or Jiraiya. They tend to leave out his teacher Umino Iruka, the first adult to ever show him any affection or individual attention. He calls himself Naruto's honorary older brother, and he's right to do so. Iruka sees his 12-year-old student misbehaving out of loneliness, and he recalls his own behavior as an orphaned child. Rather than pushing Naruto away for his poor behavior in his class, he goes out of his way to give him the emotional support and physical protection he isn't getting anywhere else.
Over the course of their relationship, he takes a giant shuriken to the back to keep Naruto safe, comforts him after Jiraiya's death, and ultimately plays the role of his father during his wedding. This is all the more impressive when one considers that the Nine-Tails beast sleeping inside Naruto killed Iruka's parents. He's uncomfortable with Naruto at first for this reason - much like everyone else in Konoha - but he puts this aside to become one of the most important figures in the boy's life. The Naruto fandom cannot possibly give Iruka enough credit.
Mumen Rider is a character from One-Punch Man who is easy to overlook, but is actually pretty awesome. He's not the most skilled superhero in Z-City, his rank is C, which isn't high. However, the reason his rank is so low is because he only wants to move up when he truly feels he's earned it. It doesn't matter to him if he gets glory or accolades - he just wants to ensure the villains are defeated, and he's willing to support a more accomplished hero, or take on powerful villains alone, if necessary.
Ultimately, what matters to Mumen Rider is getting the job done. Though he isn't properly appreciated in the world of One-Punch Man, there's no reason the fandom can't give him a little more credit.
It might seem shocking that a character from Sword Art Online could be called underrated, seeing as SAO is one of the most popular anime in existence. In fact, some would argue that the show itself is seriously overrated. But what a lot of SAO fans forget is that the series isn't all about Kirito and Asuna. Actually, there are a ton of wonderful ancillary characters who end up completely ignored. One of those is the deuteragonist of the Mother's Rosario arc, the oft-forgotten Yuuki Konno.
Yuuki is a cheerful, energetic girl who wants Asuna's help on an in-game mission. It turns out that this mission means a lot more to Yuuki than anyone realizes. In real life, Yuuki is unable to do much of anything, because she's in an isolation unit at a hospital, dying of AIDS. She's using an experimental form of FullDive technology called the Medicuboid that allows her to live in a virtual world and bypass the physical ramifications of the dying process. Despite her truly terrible circumstances, she still forges a friendship with Asuna, and is a brave warrior in the context of the virtual reality game. Her presence makes the final arc of Sword Art Online II into an emotionally resonant finale.
Where would Gintama be without Shinpachi? The Yorozuya likely wouldn't be able to function at all, either as an odd-jobs business or as a meta purveyor of comedy. Shinpachi is the one who makes sure they stick to a schedule and complete tasks, and he even manages to keep Gintoki and Kagura from committing too many arrestable offenses. As the most serious and logical person in the trio, he makes the other two seem far more absurd, which adds an extra layer of humor to the show.
But Shinpachi isn't without his own bizarre foibles. If you get him talking about his idol obsession, he seems every bit as ridiculous as Kagura when she's eating her weight in pickled seaweed or fighting her giant dog. Still, when it comes to helping the other members of the Yorozuya defeat an enemy or solve a serious problem, he can always be counted on.