For as long we can remember, a great number of anime has always featured an ensemble cast. Some of the first notable titles to do so were Gatchaman and the original Space Battleship Yamato. In the eighties, the mech genre was full of them, as it is in practice today. In the 90s, Marmalade Boy was notorious for its love polygons. Today, we have One Piece and Fairy Tail. These anime titles do a great job of presenting to the audience who these characters are, how they develop, and how their relationships develop as well. In Gatchaman, we see the titular team grow together. In Space Battleship Yamato, we see the crew overcome adversity time and time again. In Marmalade Boy, every boy and girl manages to hook up. So, what are some titles beyond these honorable mentions that make great use of an ensemble cast? Read our top 10 to find out!
- Episodes: 17
- Aired: January 7, 2018 - May 19, 2018
Considering how big idols are in the East (most especially in Japan and South Korea), it’s only natural that they would find their way into anime. One notable title is Idolish7, an anime about how seven young men and their rookie manager aim to be the top idols in the world! The seven members of the titular Idolish7 group pretty much play on real life archetypes of male idol groups such as one member being the intellectual, one being the onii-san, the younger brother-type and whatever you can think of.
Not only do we get to learn about the motivations of the Idolish7 members, but we are also presented with other idol groups such as Trigger, Re:Vibrator, and ZOOL, whose members also have their own distinguishing personalities, talents, and motivations. Through all these characters, audiences can have an idea on how difficult and competitive the road to success can be both internally and externally.
9. Tennis no Ouji-sama (Prince of Tennis)
- Episodes: 178
- Aired: October 10, 2001 - March 23, 2005
In this 2000s hit, we have one of the biggest sports titles of all time, Prince of Tennis. If you thought that Seigaku’s seven varsity members were a handful, you’ll be seeing a lot more cast members as they face off against other characters from other schools. Thankfully, its episode count allows us to get to know not just each and every member of Seigaku, but members of other schools such as Hyotei, Rikkaidai, Rokkaku and NUMEROUS others.
The story presents how each and every character is motivated to be the very best (like no one ever was!) and what their bonds mean to each other. You see EVERY personality shine through (such as Tezuka’s stoic demeanor, Atobe’s arrogance, and Yukimura’s beauty). Not only do the main characters get screen time and develop, so does much of its supporting cast (such as Nanjiro). While some particular traits do get repeated (and for good reason) such as the data guy, the star rookie, and the powerhouse, the story finds ways to make them distinguishing and fresh.
8. Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans (Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 4, 2015 - March 27, 2016
Yes, pretty much EVERY Gundam installment you can think of has an ensemble cast, but Iron-Blooded Orphans takes a rather different approach. In a majority of Gundam and mech anime, the pilots tend to be teenage pilots who just happen to be geniuses at engineering. With Iron-Blooded Orphans, we see that Mika, the main character, and a large majority of the crew he works with in Tekkadan (probably with the exceptions of Biscuit and Orga), are functionally illiterate. This installment of Gundam does an effective job of showing that their circumstances are economical.
Through Tekkadan and their journey to protect Kudelia, you see through the core cast that they all have goals of a better world, and that they only want to support their families. Ironically, Gjallarhorn-Tekkadan’s enemy-wants the same thing! Iron-Blooded Orphans also does an excellent job of presenting the audience who the characters of these factions are, and to see things from their point of view. The fact we get different viewpoints through this ensemble cast despite sharing the same goals, is what helps make it more distinguishing from other Gundam installments.
7. 7 Seeds
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: June 28, 2019
In this Netflix adaptation of Yumi Tamura’s hit manga, we see how 29 selected individuals survive in Japan centuries (or maybe millennia?) after a meteor shower wiped out all of humanity, and how it has affected the flora and fauna of the planet. The cast is separated into five groups labeled by seasons, with summer having two groups. As 7 Seeds expands with its story, it gives the opportunity to share with the audience why each character/group was chosen to survive.
Through Haru, an accomplished musician, he can bring the world back some culture. With Ran’s architecture background, she can help construct houses for her team. With the Summer B team, they are the misfits of the bunch who have no background in survival or training, so you see how they adjust to the world around them. While some characters may not get as screen time as others, every character contributes in a manner to help make the story go forward, and how they help each other and themselves become better people through their crisis.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: June 25, 2018 - December 17, 2018
As a martial arts tournament anime, there’s no doubt you’re going to get A LOT of characters and Baki knows how to deliver them. While the titular Baki is obviously the lead character, just about every character introduced in this Netflix adaptation or were introduced in the initial Baki anime from almost 20 years ago ALL get some sort of screen time whether they be hero, villain, anti-hero, anti-villain, or whatever. In a good number of episodes of the first season to the Netflix series, Baki mostly takes a back seat as we see the rest of the cast take on a ragtag group of renegades who put the Cobra Kai creed of Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy sound like a kindergarten chant.
In the second season, our heroes go to China to fight in the Raitai Tournament and take on some of China’s most elite grandmasters. There you learn that some of these masters live up to their titles, and there are some that make you think that they probably trained at a McDojo. In Baki, the audience pretty much gets to know ALMOST EVERY character and each member brings something different to the table.
5. Fruits Basket 2019
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 6, 2019 - September 21, 2019
In this remake that is meant to be a full adaptation of Natsuki Takaya’s original manga, audiences who wish to see it in anime form are finally introduced to more members of the eccentric Souma family. Through its unique ensemble cast, audiences are given the opportunity to learn about teenage angst, abuse, and how the power of your nakama is always there to help you through these hard times. You see Kyo trying to fight how he’s the black cat (not black, but if you’ve seen the anime, you know what we mean) of the family, how Yuki copes with not allowing people to embrace him, Hatori’s pain of losing his fiancee, and how Momiji is unable to be acknowledged by his mother. In addition to the Souma family, Fruits Basket also masterfully portrays what Tooru means to Saki and Arisa, who were pretty much social rejects before they met Tooru. There is so much we can share about the cast of Fruits Basket, but that in itself qualifies as its own unique article!
4. Boku No Hero Academia (My Hero Academia)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 3, 2016 - June 26, 2016
In this latest hit by Shounen Jump, we have Boku No Hero Academia. Considering it takes place in a school setting, not only do we get to see Deku’s classmates in action, but we’re also treated to the school staff and our heroes’ unique rogues gallery. A majority of the characters all have unique powers-or quirks-that make them all stand out. Not only do their quirks make each character stand out, so do their unique personalities and character designs so audiences can immediately recognize who is who. While some quirks can be repetitive (as seen with Overhaul and Tomura), they are expressed in different ways to make them fresh and distinguished from one another. Boku No Hero Academia not only does a great job of presenting the characters as individuals, but how they work together and how they are good contradictions to their rivals.
3. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack On Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 7, 2013 - September 23, 2013
For the past ten years, Attack On Titan has been one of Japan’s biggest exports, and its expanding cast is one of the biggest reasons why. While we’re first introduced to Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, the series gives us more and more characters per episode and arc, and virtually ALL of the characters introduced have a big role to play. From the third season, the cast isn’t just limited to those who live inside the walls, but those who live outside of them. From that season of Attack On Titan, we learn that certain characters such as Annie, Ymir, and Bertolt aren’t from inside the walls and through the expansion of their development, we’re introduced to newer characters such as Zeke.
You learn not only of each characters’ backstories, but their motivations. Not only does this series do great with the individual aspect with the characters, but their relationships as well. Some notable relationships include of course the one that Armin, Eren, and Miaksa share, but the ones with Levi and Erwin, and the relationship between Annie, Bertolt, and Reiner.
2. JoJo No Kimyou Na Bouken (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 6, 2012 - April 6, 2013
Okay, we can admit we’re cheating with JoJo considering how the anime version has presently adapted five of its (currently) eight story arcs from the manga, so in its entirety, JoJo is a top ensemble anime in a lot of ways. While Phantom Blood, its first story arc, is limited to mostly Jonathan, Zeppeli, and Speedwagon as its leading cast, it grows more and more with each arc. Through each arc, they all allow the audience to get to know these characters and how they define their bonds. Some make it through the journey, and there are those who don’t, and this is most emphatic with Stardust Crusaders, its third arc.
Together, they make you laugh, cry, and feel a lot of other emotions you never thought you had (looking at you torture dance from Golden Wind!). With the abilities they all share, not only do you see what it’s like to have nakama, but the creativity their teamwork brings to the action sequences. Not only are the heroes appealing, so are some of its villains. Some have motivations that are grand, and there are some that are rather small, but no matter what they may be, they still have to be dealt with.
1. Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu (Legend of the Galactic Heroes)
- Episodes: 110
- Aired: January 8, 1988 - March 17, 1997
At number one, we have to give it to the original adaptation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Yes, we know that there’s a remake, but considering the remake only has adapted less than 50% upon the drafting of this article, we figure it would make more sense to use the original since it’s already complete. Why Legend of the Galactic Heroes is number one can be an ENTIRE ARTICLE in itself, but we have to make this short and sweet. Throughout this epic saga, we are EQUALLY presented to both sides of the conflict between the Free Planets Alliance and the Galactic Empire. While Yang and Reinhard are the main characters for each of their sides, the series goes into GREAT DEPTHS in portraying its LARGE supporting cast.
We see how this politician or this soldier contributes to the overall impact of the story, and how they develop. All-in-all, we get to see that there are good and bad people on each side of the conflict and in-between some episodes, these characters will make you cheer for one side for one episode, or the other side for the next. The fact that these characters can make such an impact demonstrates why we put this at number one.
We feel with our top 10 picks, they all do a great job of showcasing what every character can do to contribute to helping make the story go forward and how they develop individually. Not every character will get a chance to interact with everyone, but all of our picks show that they demonstrate whatever relationships they can forge with whoever, and become better people because of them. And those relationships don’t exactly have to be friendships. In a strange way, rivalries can be beneficial to the development as well. This is notably seen in Prince of Tennis, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and in Boku No Hero Academia. Some of our picks may not exactly have 100+ episodes, but any series that manages to showcase its ensemble cast with less we tip our hats off to. So, in addition to our top 10, what are some quality ensemble anime you’d like to share with us? If you have any, please leave your recommendations in the comments!