Kuro(黒)=Black, Midori(緑)=Green, Ki(黄)=Yellow, Murasaki(紫)=Purple, Aka(赤)=Red, Ao(青)=Blue
‘What’s in a name?’ This famous Shakespearean quote has as much relevance to popular culture now as it did in pre Victorian Britain. Anime spans more genres than perhaps any other entertainment medium, therefore there is a deep well of male anime characters names that are rich with lore, characterisation and references to both history and the modern physical world while needless to say sounding badass and inspiring.
So what exactly are the best male names in anime? Taking into account the meanings, impact and nature of the character themselves; here is the top 10 best names for male anime characters!
10. Prince Arslan from Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 2015 - Sep 2015
Arslan Senki is a revival of a 1990’s OVA series based in a historical fantasy world, loosely drawing from Middle Eastern and Christian/Templar period history. In the prosperous kingdom of Pars lies the Royal Capital of Ecbatana, a city of splendor and wonder, ruled by the undefeated and fearsome King Andragoras. Arslan is the young and curious prince of Pars who, despite his best efforts, doesn't seem to have what it takes to be a proper king like his father. At the age of 14, Arslan goes to his first battle and loses everything as the blood-soaked mist of war gives way to scorching flames, bringing him to face the demise of his once glorious kingdom. However, it is Arslan's destiny to be a ruler, and despite the trials that face him, he must now embark on a journey to reclaim his fallen kingdom.
Arslan’s name, much like many others in the show, are based upon historical characters or significant figures in historical media. Arslan itself is the Turkish word for Lion. This is a deliberate choice for a character that is tasked with being the ruler of an entire pride that will depend upon him for guidance. The Anime itself also draws inspiration from the Asian novel epic Amir Arsalan. Arslan’s name is a tribute to the titular character of this novel series Arsalan. This is a series that is steeped in Middle Eastern lore and has been used as the basis for this fictional representation of the region and its young would be king, Prince Arslan.
9. Jubei Kibagami from Ninja Scroll
- Episodes: 1 film
- Aired: Jun 1993
An iconic feature film that stunned many with the quality of its animation and brutality of its combat, Ninja Scroll has influenced many samurai anime for generations. Jubei Kibagami is a wandering ronin samurai that is legendary in his region due to this skill with a sword. Jubei unexpectedly encounters an unusual warrior with skin like stone and rescues a young female assassin from his perverted and sadistic clutches. This unlikely chain of events leads to a group of highly trained and bizarre half human assassins hunting Jubei and his new beautiful but dangerous companion.
Jubei is of course an iconic name for any enthusiast of Japanese and samurai history. Jubei Kibagami. This character is a homage to the famed Japanese samurai folk hero Yagyu Jubei. This is not the only time Yagyu Jubei has been reincarnated in modern Japanese media, making his way into numerous prominent games and manga. However Jubei Kibagami is perhaps the best iteration of the Jubei legend, matching his fighting ability with a ronin sense of justice and refusing to back down from insurmountable odds.
8. Guts from Berserk
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 1997 - Mar 1998
A brave young warrior named Guts fights for his fortune as a mercenary on the front lines. A fated encounter unites Guts with the charismatic and deadly young man named Griffith. Leading the rogue soldiers known as the Band of the Hawk, Griffith wields his formidable force like no other. Driven by a quest for status, the Hawks exert military and social prowess the likes of which have never been seen before. The armies of Midland will quake with fear as Griffith and Guts set off on a path that will bring the world to its knees.
His name has often times been translated by some English scanlation groups as "Gatts", or "Gutts", or "Gattsu." However, the official translation provided to Dark Horse Comics by Kentaro Miura himself, is in fact, "Guts." We can therefore assume that this carries the English connotations of the word which surely encapsulates the character like few other names good. It is a simple and perhaps barbaric name that can take route in his ability to both spill the ‘guts’ of his enemies, which he does throughout Berserk. We could also derive that he possess the ‘guts’ or fortitude and bravery to deal with any situation thrown at him. This is especially prominent upon Guts witnessing the Band of the Hawk being devoured alive by demons and doing battle with the unholy hoard as a single warrior. Guts is perhaps the most literally accurate name that appears in anime history.
7. Eren Yeager from Shingeki no Kyoujin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 2013 - Sep 2013
Attack on Titan has been one of the most successful anime shows of the 21st century, even recently transitioning onto the big screen for a live action adaptation. The remnants of the human race survive from within their multiple walled citadels, their only way to keep the gigantic, grotesque humanoid titans that have a hunger for human flesh at bay. Until one day a new breed of colossal titan appears above the walls, gazing at the terrified citizenry and destroying their only defense from the blood thirsty titans. After witnessing a horrific personal loss at the hands of the invading creatures, Eren Yeager dedicates his life to their eradication by enlisting into the Survey Corps, an elite military unit that combats the merciless humanoids outside the protection of the walls.
Eren Yeager is a unique name for anime being of mixed western origin. While all of the Attack on Titan cast have names derived from Germanic origin, Eren Yeagers stands out as the most iconic of the bunch. Eren comes from the Turkish word for ‘saint’ and Yeager is a variation of the German word Jäger which translates as hunter. These names are perfectly apt for humanities final hope in surviving the evolved Titan onslaught. Eren is a saint as he alone may possess the abilities to provide salvation to his fellow humans. He is also a hunter of Titans during his time with the Survey Corps as he is one of the Elite few to have hunted titans beyond the walls in the wide world beyond.
6. Yukihira Sooma from Shokugeki no Sooma (Food Wars)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr 2015 - Sep 2015
One of the best offerings from last seasons Summer Anime, Shokugeki no Sooma combines the dramatic supercharging of Dragonball Z, fantastic character development, hilarious and creative fan service and wraps it all in a culinary tale of iron chef style battles between students of the most elite culinary school in the world. Yukihira Sooma is the titular protagonist, who combines an intense passion, creativity and love for his friends that make him an inherently likable main character. Shokugeki no Sooma follows Yukihira’s first year through Totuski Culinary academy and his quest to become the head of the Elite 10, the student body heads of the academy. Along the way Yukihira forges deep friendships and overcomes many hurdles, the Academy is legendary for its toughness and propensity to expel students for the smallest mistakes. Far from a typical high school slice of life, Shokugeki and Yukihira’s own personal journey are an inspiring heart warming tale.
Yukihira Sooma is another name that transcends Japanese and foreign language. Yukihira is his family name and also the name of the diner restaurant that is run by Sooma and his father and his passion and grounding obtained from his family restaurant is intrinsic to the story. Sooma is an interesting word that has both Latin and Sanskrit origins. Depending on which definition you adopt, in Latin Sooma means the human body independent of the soul. While this sounds interesting, the Sanskrit terminology is perhaps more appropriate for Sooma-kun. In Sanskrit it translates as a legendary plant extract that is used in the creation of a drink that is said to be the nectar of the gods. This can certainly be likened to the cuisine created by Sooma that is so delectable it causes his customers to enter an almost sexually orgasmic state.
5. Gintoki Sakata from Gintama
- Episodes: 201
- Aired: Apr 2006 - Mar 2010
One of the longest running and most popular anime franchises particularly in its native Japan, Gintama features samurai, aliens and a rag tag cast of genuinely hilarious characters adventuring throughout Edo period Japan. Often praised for its excellent humour, entertaining action and series semi-titular protagonist Gintoki regularly breaking the ‘4th wall’ and communicating with the audience. Gintama is a seminal piece of anime that rarely takes itself too seriously and provides a pure piece of entertainment.
Gintoki is often one of the most popular characters for doujinshi (fan fiction) in Japan due to his personality, design and of course his infamous name. The kanji used to write Gin and Toki are those for ‘Silver’ and for ‘Time’. The silver is in relation to his silver hair and his previous nickname of the silver warrior. There is however a deeper historical real world truth to Gintoki’s name. According to author Sorachi, Gintoki's name was based on Sakata Kintoki, also known as Kintaro, from a famous folk tale set in the Heian Period. Kintaro became friends with the animals that lived on the mountain where he was raised, and was even capable of battling with them. After certain events, he became a samurai and eventually went under the name Sakata Kintoki.
4. Kirito from Sword Art Online
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Jul 8, 2012 to Dec 23, 2012
Sword Art Online chronicles the ultimate ‘what if’ scenario. With the users of the hit VR MMORPG video game Sword Art Online forced to spend eternity in the game by villainous creator Akihiko Kaihaba. The only way to escape is to clear the 100 floor dungeon, however if they are to fall in a battle, there brains will be destroyed in the real world, leading to a painful and true death. Kirito, also known as the black swordsman is a former beta tester who may just possess the skill and determination to save the residents of Aincrad and his new found companions.
While Kirito is in fact only his avatar name, as the majority of the series focuses on events that take place within the game, this is how he is famously and most commonly referred to. The name Kirito has become iconic as SAO has stormed both otaku and mainstream media. The reasons for the name are actually explained by the character himself to his lover Asuna Yuki. His real world name is Kirigaya Kazuto, so he took the Kiri from his family name and the To from his personal name to create the legendary dual wielding warrior Kirito.
3. Roronoa Zoro from One Piece
- Episodes: 700+
- Aired: Oct 1999 - ongoing
One Piece is perhaps the most popular and famous anime and manga in Japan, with its episode currently ranging in the 700’s. Monkey D Luffy and the rest of his straw hat pirate comrades adventures on the Grand Line see. The first pirate to join Luffy’s crew is the infamous samurai pirate Roronoa Zoro whom is world renowned as one of the most powerful and dangerous hunters in the new world. Zoro has a gruff attitude and frequently argues with his fellow straw hats in particular with Sanji, however when it comes to battle, his is unmatched among his comrades and there are only a few pirate lords who can stand toe to toe with him and live to tell the tale.
Roronoa Zoro has some obvious connotations to western fans of one piece, most notably sharing the name of the South American legend of the swordman Zorro who wore a mask and fought against the rich elite oppressing the common people. However series creator Eichiro Oda has confirmed that this is not the inspiration for the famous pirate’s name. Zoro is in fact the only Straw Hat Pirate to be named after a real life pirate, this being after the Japanese pronunciation of François l'Ollonais. It’s safe to say that ‘Zoro’ rolls off the tongue much easier and has become an iconic name amongst anime fans.
2. Light Yagami from Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: Oct 2006 - Jun 2007
Death Note has already achieved more crossover appeal than many manga’s could ever hope to achieve, the anime is critically acclaimed and it has even spawned to rather excellent live action adaptations that have received wide spread praise beyond the boundary of Japans shores. The dark tale of protagonist/antagonist Light Yagami and the power he obtains to kill any being whose name he etches into the pages of the mysterious ‘Death Note’ is a modern classic. Light’s battle with the detective L and the precarious relationship to the shinagami demon Ryuk have been documented well by countless entertainment outlets. The true power of Death Note is Light’s journey from vigilante saviour for the people, to God complex serial killing maniac. Its hard not to draw comparisons to other modern western classics such as Breaking Bad.
Light Yagami is both an inherently cool sounding name but also unique in its blending of the Western and Japanese language. After all the Japanese have a word for Light (hikari) already existing but the decision was made to adopt the western expression. This is especially interesting and poignant when you examine how his name is written in Japanese in both the Manga and in the Anime. Light is written using the kanji for moon (tsuki). This is an interesting choice as the author could have chosen to write in either katakana (Japanese alphabet for foreign loan words) or to choose the kanji for either light (hikari) or sun (hi). This seems to be a reflective decision on Light Yagami’s dark light that he shines over the world. This is not a light of salvation but instead a light that is steeped in darkness and a desire for chaos in the world.
1. Izaya Orihara from Durarara
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jan 2010 - Jun 2010
In the Tokyo district of Ikebukuro, things are not always as they seem. Mysterious powers pull the strings of its populace from the shadows, violent gangs that associate with a colour code clash in the streets and mobsters and civilian’s alike whisper about sittings of the legendary headless rider. While the story follows a broad cast of characters from high school students, bouncers, gang members, scientists and even the headless rider herself, one man is forever watching and manipulating events in any way he sees fit. Izaya Orihara is this man, although he often alludes to being more than a mere human, something that is never confirmed but also highly likely considering the other supernatural inhabitants of Ikebukuro.
Izaya Orihara is an intelligent name to give to the secret and mysterious antagonist of the Durarara world. As is a common trend both in anime and this list, his name combines Western and Eastern traditions. Izaya is taken from the Western biblical name Ishaia, interesting when you consider Izaya often refers to a higher power or God, even hinting that he himself is one such deity controlling and observing the streets of Tokyo. Orihara comes from the Japanese characters that represent ‘watching over a crowd’. This gives his names the permutation of a Deity watching over the denizens of Ikebukuro,
All of the names on this list have more to them than simply sounding cool, bad-ass or interesting; they are intrinsic to the characters themselves and have often been given deep thought by the original author.
Are there any characters you don’t agree with or think we’ve missed? Do any of the facts surprise you? Leave us a comment and let us know your own Top 10 male names in anime!