2020 may have been excruciating to get through, but at least we had some top-notch anime to distract us from the ever-increasing ennui of an unstable world! This year has had an abundance of character-focused dramas, so we thought we’d highlight five male leads who left a distinct impression on us, even long after their stories were over. Let’s toss our cares away and get started!
5. Kakushi Gotou from Kakushigoto
Middlingly popular mangaka Kakushi Gotou specializes in risqué comedy stories, but he can’t bear to let his precious 10-year-old daughter Hime know that, so he goes to hilarious lengths to convince her that he’s just an ordinary salaryman. Even though this anime primarily focuses on comedic misunderstandings, it also wants you to know how dearly Kakushi loves his daughter. He takes cooking classes so he can make her favorite fried chicken for her birthday, fends off judgy relatives who think he’s incompetent, and even reconstructs their old house in a completely new area once his wife passes away. Despite his low self-esteem, we think anyone would be thrilled to have Kakushi as a dad.
4. Golem from Somali to Mori no Kamisama (Somali and the Forest Spirit)
Golem is a soulless automaton with no emotions or attachments to anything other than the forest that he’s sworn to protect – or that’s what he tells himself, anyway. When a human child in rags and shackles takes shelter in his forest and immediately imprints on him like a little duckling, Golem decides to take her on a journey to find her parents. Throughout their travels, he grows closer to the child (who he named Somali) and runs himself ragged trying to protect her from the harsh fantasy world that views humans as little more than meat.
Watching this ancient robot slowly become a doting father is as heartwarming as it is tear-jerking, since everyone but Somali knows that Golem is nearing the end of his lifespan and won’t be able to stay with her forever. We were glued to the screen for every episode, desperately hoping that they would get a happy ending!
3. Kaburagi from Deca-Dence
In the MMORPG known as Deca-Dence, Kaburagi is a gruff veteran alien hunter who’s been spending his twilight years maintaining the massive fortress that the remains of humanity call home. In reality, he’s a cyborg who works with the higher-ups to track down and eliminate glitches that could ruin the game, and he’s found a particularly stubborn glitch named Natsume (a plucky human girl who’s under the impression that everything in the game is real) who he’s reluctant to kill. Kaburagi struggles between doing his job and helping Natsume destroy the corrupt virtual theme park that enslaved humanity Black Mirror style, painting a picture of a once mighty warrior who has to overcome his cynicism to place his hopes in a new generation (he even has the same voice actor as Kamina from Gurren Lagann, to further hammer the point home). Such a down-to-earth, relatable character is welcome in an anime that’s as complex and high-concept as Deca-Dence.
2. William James Moriarty from Yuukoku no Moriarty (Moriarty the Patriot)
Have you ever hated classism so much that you used your almost superhuman smarts to get adopted by a rich family of jerks, burned their mansion down and stole their identity, became a well-known math professor/noble, and then secretly orchestrated complex revenge plots on corrupt aristocrats that let the trampled underclass exact vigilante justice on their oppressors? Because that’s what William James Moriarty does!
This version of the classic Sherlock Holmes universe focuses on the detective’s eternal rival, the “criminal consultant” Moriarty who cuts a bloody path toward the egalitarian future he dreams of. Sherlock himself is brilliant and morally upstanding, but flighty and a bit of a blowhard, so it can be difficult to know whose side to be on during their many attempts to outfox one another. We can’t wait for season 2 in the spring to see more of this battle play out!
1. Akihito Narihisago/Sakaido from ID:INVADED
Much like Moriarty, Narihisago doesn’t let society’s pesky morals get in the way of his own brand of justice. He dives into the minds of serial killers to piece together their motives and the truth of their crimes, but instead of stopping at that, he takes a sick kind of joy in killing them with his own hands. It’s satisfying to see him beat down unrepentant criminals, especially those who personally made his life a living hell, but you also have a hard time rooting for such an unhinged person. Luckily, Narihisago is able to grow with the help of some newfound friends and a bit of much-needed closure. We’re so happy for him!
We also loved Bam from Tower of God, Daisuke Kanbe from The Millionaire Detective – Balance: Unlimited, Hanako-kun from Toilet Bound Hanako-kun, and Kaiman from Dorohedoro – all memorable characters from a memorable year of anime. But who were your favorite male leads in 2020? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!