There are plenty of anime characters who are widely beloved – but not all of them deserve that adoration. In fact, a significant portion of protagonists are unbelievably overrated. The buck doesn’t stop at characters, either; there are plenty of overrated anime programs, as well. Some overvalued heroes fit snuggly into established tropes without adding a new or interesting spin to them. Others are just compromised characters who did horrible things that were ultimately ignored by the fandom.
Overrated doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Actually, some of these characters are awesome. Overrated means they get more attention than they deserve, or that their flaws are overlooked. If you see your favorite character on this list, it doesn’t mean you have bad taste or that you shouldn’t love them – only that there are good reasons others may not feel the same way.
Though few people would count Ash Ketchum among their favorite anime characters, everyone knows his name. He might be the protagonist of a franchise that introduced a whole generation to anime, but he’s not all that interesting himself. Ash is so notorious for his lack of character development that he literally doesn’t age – but he also barely has a personality, to begin with.
How does one describe Ash? Naive? Cheerful? Those traits have less to do with him as an individual, and rather are pretty general descriptors for someone his age. He’s super bland, which is fine if you want to imagine yourself on your own Pokémon journey and forget he exists – but not so great from a character perspective.
Kirito is one of those odd characters who is simultaneously overrated and underrated – he has haters who write him off as completely worthless, as well as devoted fans who think he’s flawless. Actually, Kirito is just a regular shonen protagonist, neither especially interesting nor egregiously terrible.
He has moments of interesting development in Sword Art Online II, in which he actually begins to process the trauma of being trapped in an online world and forced to kill people. That said, his personality is inconsistent, and he’s overpowered to the point that it feels implausible. Not to mention he’s just an unremarkable guy overall.
Goku is the beloved protagonist of an anime with serious nostalgia value, the Dragon Ball series. While Goku isn’t a terrible character, he isn’t as compelling as some of the other Z-Fighters.
The series puts little effort into his character development; his personality stays constant throughout the entire series. For those interested in his increasingly badass and formidable fighting prowess, this may not be an issue – though they might consider him pointlessly overpowered. Those who want to see him grow emotionally will find themselves disappointed.
Haruhi Suzumiya is the protagonist of the wildly popular anime, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. When it first came out, it received almost universal acclaim, and you’d regularly see people cosplaying the characters at anime conventions. Regardless, both the protagonist and the show itself are overrated.
Haruhi is an extremely self-centered person whose obsession with the supernatural makes her a constant source of danger to the world at large. If she isn’t sufficiently entertained, she might restart the world. While Haruhi is at times charming, she can also come across as an overtired toddler.
What’s more, she’s perfectly willing to hurt other people for entertainment – like when she forces a dude into groping Mikuru, then photographs the act and threatens to blackmail him. A character doesn’t need to be morally perfect to be interesting, but this is taking it too far.
We’ve seen the tormented, revenge-seeking protagonist trope too often in modern anime. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Eren’s fiery personality, it’s been done to death. He’s the star of a show that resonates with a lot of viewers for its inventiveness, which makes the generic nature of his character hard to overlook.
It’s fair for him to want revenge, but it’s an obvious – and therefore less compelling – storytelling choice.
The yandere trope – seemingly innocent girls who turn out to be clingy, jealous, and violent – can be entertaining, and it definitely has a massive fan following. Yuno is such a popular example of the archetype that she practically defines it. This is a problem because there’s very little to her character besides being a yandere.
Had she been the first example of the trope, it might have been okay – then it would have at least been inventive. However, Yuno is far from the first. One of the earliest known examples of the archetype is the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, and it’s been cropping up in anime long before Future Diary came out in 2011. When a trope like this so well-worn, it needs something new and complex to make it interesting, and while Yuno is certainly extreme, she brings little else to the table.
Victor Nikiforov is the deuteragonist of the much beloved Yuri!!! on ICE. He’s actually a great character – this is a case where “overrated” doesn’t necessarily mean bad. That being said, he has a number of flaws the fandom tends to ignore.
Though they ultimately form a loving partnership, Victor starts off being extremely rude to Yuri. He makes cruel comments about his weight and skating prowess, gets moody and sulky and uncommunicative, and arguably oversteps his bounds as Yuri’s coach in the early days of their relationship.
Victor doesn’t have to be perfect to be a great character – sometimes flaws are part of what makes a character more interesting. The problem is that the fandom tends to gloss over his imperfections in favor of idealizing him.
Light Yagami is a beloved character whose downfall provokes some serious thought – that is, if you were ever on the fence about the idea of murdering people with criminal records.
Death Note presents Light’s actions as justified but misguided, and some fans see him as a tragic hero. They support his choices in the beginning, but think he loses sight of his original goal as he grows increasingly drunk with power. This is wrong.
From the very beginning, Light displays a lack of understanding of what drives people to commit crimes (one major cause is poverty). He sees people with criminal records not as human beings who have made mistakes, but as evil monsters who cannot be rehabilitated. What’s more, he doesn’t even know if the people he kills are guilty or not. Instead, he puts total faith in a police system he claims isn’t doing its job.
It’s hard to be a protagonist for a major shonen title. Unless you’re bringing something new to the table, it’s hard to be as awesome as the position demands. Natsu Dragneel isn’t a bad character, but he’s not all that interesting, either.
As a user from The Top Tens says, “even bread has more personality than Natsu.” He’s reckless and quick to anger, but also totally dedicated to his friends. None of these are inherently bad things, they’ve just been done to death. Natsu adds little to the shonen hero trope; he simply replicates it.
When My Love Story!! came out, Takeo Gouda was lauded as being one of the sweetest, cuddliest anime dudes in the history of shojo. For the most part, he is – he and Yamato are total relationship goals, and it’s great to see an anime hero who isn’t conventionally attractive get loved on. But Takeo also has some majorly uncool moments involving his friend Suna that make it hard to adore him.
During a scene that is probably supposed to be funny but totally isn’t, Takeo asks Suna if he can kiss him to practice for his first kiss with Yamato. When Suna declines, Takeo slaps some plastic wrap over his mouth and forces a kiss on him through it. If he had done that to Yamato, he’d be written off as Makoto Itou-level scum, but because it’s Suna, he retains his teddy bear reputation.
Though not as hyped as she was when Code Geass first came out, C.C. remains a fan favorite. She’s mysterious, beautiful, and alluring, and her partnership with Lelouch combined with her tragic backstory makes her all the more compelling.
But C.C. also did something terrible that the fandom totally fails to acknowledge. She once gave the Geass power to an orphan boy named Mao. It allowed him to read minds, but he quickly lost control and couldn’t stop hearing people’s thoughts – resulting in a debilitating condition that eventually drove him insane. C.C.’s reaction to this was to leave – even though she’d essentially been raising him for years, and his descent into madness was her fault.
Despite this horrific mistake, C.C. still gives Lelouch the Geass power, and doesn’t tell him how dangerous it is until it’s too late. She might be an interesting character, but when the fandom ignores her sordid past in favor of gushing over how cute her pizza habit is, it means she’s overrated.
One-Punch Man is one of the most popular anime series to hit the scene in recent years, and while it’s by no means bad, its protagonist isn’t nearly as great as everyone says he is.
Saitama is an ordinary, carefree guy who can defeat anyone with a single punch. Because One-Punch Man is a parody anime, Saitama is a parody character. But parody can coexist with character development: In Gintama, Gintoki Sakata has a rich backstory and a complex set of reasons for his behavior while still being hilarious. Saitama, sadly, is pretty one-note. It takes a single episode to get the gist of his personality.
He’s funny, but he doesn’t go beyond that – the truly great anime characters do.
Many Naruto fans count Jiraiya among their favorite characters, and in their defense, the show tries unbelievably hard to make viewers empathetic towards this often neglectful pig. Jiraiya spends half his time on screen sexually harassing women, and the other half neglecting his responsibilities to his godson. Despite his lecherous and irresponsible nature, he often appears in a sympathetic light, and he gets countless hours of screen time.
Sure, he’s a talented ninja who has some interesting character development (if you can stop cringing at his perverse behavior long enough to notice it). However, there are so many other great Naruto characters who aren’t blatant misogynists.