Upon the drafting of this list, the controversial Gillette commercial in regards to “toxic masculinity” had just hit the airwaves. We’re not here to debate about politics, but when making a list like this in the present climate, it can be difficult to not think about this commercial and the reactions to it when looking at the title of this list. We can all agree that sexual harassment and bullying are wrong, and that men shouldn’t condone and must prevent such behavior, and we get that. Beyond the usual “not all men” response, some found the nature of the commercial to be negative and doesn’t show how men are presently being positive to begin with. One rebuttal commercial such as Egard Watches’ demonstrates that men are also capable of being victims and also show the great things they have done.
We’re not here to take sides but when you watch them together, it does make us re-evaluate the criteria of positive male presence in both real life and in entertainment, and that includes anime and manga. From last year, we’d like to give 10 males who showed great qualities in what it takes to being a good one.
10. Yuuta’s Hibiki from SSSS.Gridman
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: October 7, 2018 – December 23, 2018
Yuuta is a teenage amnesiac who is trying to live his ordinary life as he gets himself together. Thankfully, a couple of his classmates are there to remind him of where he lives and where he goes to school. However, their town is being attacked by monsters, or as they say in Japanese pop culture, Kaiju. Thanks to Gridman, a superhero trapped in his classmate’s old computer for sale, Yuuta and Gridman can fuse to fight the monster.
Despite his predicament, Yuuta accepts his role as Gridman in hopes that he can find his true identity. Even without knowing who he is, he has a genuine sense of wanting to help his city and cares about all of his classmates, even Akane, the one responsible for all the monsters. Under his circumstances, he never complains and acts with little to no hesitation. The way he handles his situation with courage is what ultimately qualifies him to be on this list.
9. Broly from Dragon Ball Super: Broly
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Air Dates: December 14, 2018
Broly in his present iteration shows that men are capable of being victims, and what child abuse could do to a person. He’s a child trapped in a 45-year-old’s (heavily muscled) body. The movie does a great job showing not only that he’s a victim of his father’s abuse, but how it has affected him in his emotional development. Thanks to Chirai, we see a more human side to him. Thanks to his brief interactions with her, he knows what it’s like to have a friend and to have a heart. He also learns that there are food and liquids beyond what he grew up with. When he meets Chirai, he has water for the first time (still makes you wonder how that food gives him that killer body)!
Not only was he raised under a father who saw him nothing more as an attack dog, he had little to no interactions or education. Thanks to his isolated upbringing, he’s worse than Goku in terms of being illiterate. Thanks to the sympathy of Chirai who saw the good in him, you see that deep down inside, Broly is capable of being good and Goku’s encouragement of him being a worthy opponent further adds to that. Broly makes this list because he’s an example of regardless of his severe upbringing, he shows at the age of 45, it’s never too late to change.
8. Ushio Hinomaru from Hinomaru Zumou (Hinomaru Sumo)
- Episodes: 24
- Air Dates: October 5, 2018 - Ongoing
Not only is Ushio Hinomaru shorter than average for someone his age at 157 cm (or 5’2” for you Americans), by the official medical standards of Japan’s sumo sanctioning body, he’s too short to compete! Do you know what the official minimum height requirement is? It happens to be 167cm (5’6”)! Thankfully, this anime educates viewers that there can be exceptions. As for high school sumo competitions, it doesn’t have such requirements and if Ushio can become the equivalent to being a Yokozuna (or a sumo champion) at the high school level, then that requirement can be wavered if he goes pro.
What makes Ushio special is his infectious passion and work ethic for sumo. He could have joined Ishigami High School, which has the best high school sumo team in Japan. Instead, an accidental twist of fate (due to his lack of sense of direction) convinces him to join Odachi High School, which only has one member, Ozeki. Touched by each other’s enthusiasm for the traditional Japanese combat sport, Ushio decides to join Odachi instead. After Ushio bests some of the school’s top fighters, they join the sumo team after being humbled by their defeats. Ushio may not be the captain, but he is definitely the heart of the team. He doesn’t want to succeed on his own, but wants his team to succeed as a whole. The fact that he cares about his teammates and wants them to be their best shows how self-less Ushio is.
7. Baki Hanma from Baki
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: June 25, 2018 – December 17, 2018
Baki may be 17, but he’s Japan’s ultimate underground mixed martial artist. Thanks to winning Japan’s top underground MMA tournament (keep in mind when the manga debuted in the early 90s, MMA was barely a thing in Japan), some death row inmates break out just to fight him. Some get to fight him, and some don’t. As for Baki, not only do you see him as a fighter, you get to see him live a normal teenage life. He goes to school and wants to spend time with Kozue, who he has a developing romance with. Outside of his world of fighting, the display of his physical prowess is comically awkward and yet freakish when he takes his PE test.
With Kozue, you see how much they mean to each other. She may not be a white belt, but when push comes to shove, she’s willing to put herself in harm’s way for Baki. Thanks to Baki’s influence, Kozue finds the strength to stand up for herself and for Baki when he’s at his weakest. Though their relationship goes to an extreme that a lot of adults don’t want teenagers to go, you do feel a genuine love between the two. Thanks to this installment, not only do you see Baki as a fighter, you get to see more of him as a lover and how that shapes his motivations for fighting. Some say women weaken legs, but Baki shows that behind every strong man, is a strong woman.
6. Giorno Giovanna from JoJo no Kimyou Na Bouken: Ougon no Kaze (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind)
- Episodes: 39
- Air Dates: October 5, 2018 - Ongoing
In the fifth story arc of Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure epic, the story centers on Giorno Giovanna, the son of Dio, a previous villain in the series. This time, Giorno is the good guy! What makes Giorno an upstanding young man is that he wants to make his community in Naples, Italy a better place. He sees that children are victims of drug abuse and he wants to put an end to it. What is questionable is of course that he wants to join a gang in order to do so. In pop culture, it always shows that certain Italian towns are mafia controlled and Giorno just modifies the old saying of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” but he puts his own spin on it by adding in “and then take them.”
A lot of the people he interacts with are also gangsters. Even so, Giorno manages to find the good in some of them, most especially Bucciarati, who has similar morals to him when it comes to drugs and children. After finding common ground, they team up in hopes of cleaning up their town. A lot of people like to say that people end up bad because of the influence of nature vs. nurture. Giorno on the other hand shows that people are responsible for their own destiny regardless of the circumstances of their birth and upbringing. His true father was a maniac and he had an abusive step-father. However, he defies both of them and shows that at a young age, he can take care of himself and wants to be a good person. In the end, we choose how to we live our life and Giorno, despite his difficult childhood, excellently demonstrates that responsibility.
5. Levi from Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 (Attack on Titan Season 3)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 23, 2018 – October 15, 2018
Of course, Levi is not the main character, but the breakout character. He’s composed, stoic and shows that he can take down titan with relative ease. Through season 3, thanks to the introduction of his Uncle Kenny, the audience finally learns about Levi’s origins. Through his origin story, viewers can learn that great leaders aren’t born, they’re made. He grew up in the most impoverished conditions you could think of, and when his uncle found him, he was malnourished and in the company of his mother’s rotting corpse. Kenny, a psychopathic killer, briefly takes him in and teaching him everything there is about surviving, and leaves him on his own when he couldn’t do anything else for him.
In the end, Levi didn’t let his beginnings determine his future. Instead, he becomes a soldier and one of the Scouts’ most elite titan slayers. Despite his dark personality, he has a unique sense of charisma. He knows how to command soldiers and when it comes to Eren, he just shows tough love, but acknowledges his value. When it came to Kenny coming back to his life, he knew what Kenny is capable of and does everything possible to protect his soldiers from him, and settle the score with him once and for all.
4. Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate 0
- Episodes: 23
- Air Dates: April 12, 2018 – September 27, 2018
Through most of the first two-thirds of Steins;Gate 0, the audience sees Rintaro as a broken man. We have to disclaim that you have to watch the first series to understand why. The way he deals with the loss of Kurisu after everything he went through would be traumatic on just about anyone. The worst part is, nobody knows why he is suffering because his constant time travels erased everyone’s memories but his. The anime shows that not only men are capable of having issues like PTSD and/or depression, it shows why they’re afraid of seeking help, especially in a cultural point of view. In Japanese culture, they have this “gaman” (Japanese for “endure”) mentality and in a sense, is something the equivalent to what contributes to “toxic masculinity” in Japan. The moment you show such mental health issues, it’s seen as a sign of weakness in Japanese culture and Rintaro doesn’t want to exhibit that, which is why he isolates himself.
While his friends can’t understand why Rintaro is depressed, they do show legitimate concern, which demonstrates that with friends like that, there’s no shame in having mental health issues regardless of the reason. Even so, it’s still difficult to open up to such issues and through Rintaro, we can get an understanding as to why a lot of people can’t open up. In the end, Rintaro does find a way to overcome his loss, and once again finds value with who he still has in his life and wants to protect them.
3. All Might from Boku no Hero Academia 3rd Season (My Hero Academia 3)
- Episodes: 25
- Air Dates: April 7, 2018 – September 29, 2018
All Might is pretty much a spoof of your typical American superhero, but has his contributions beyond that. He is everything a hero needs to be. Despite his overwhelming charisma, he is someone who is genuinely driven to help people in need, and not for the sake of looking cool. Thanks to his example, kids such as Izuku look up to him. It’s not just his physical flaws that humanize him, but what you see in season 3 shows that he has to re-evaluate in the way he handles how people have idolized him. This is expressed through Bakugo and Izuku’s fight.
After stopping their fight, All Might comes to realize his failures in nurturing Bakugo’s motivations and sees that there is more to being a role model and mentor. The fact that All Might takes time to evaluate himself in his role as a teacher shows that our good intentions can sometimes lead to unintended consequences, and by learning from them, we can improve ourselves. All Might may have lost full control of his One For All quirk in this season, but his experience and growing wisdom portrays he still has much to contribute as a hero. If anything, many can say without a doubt that teachers are the best heroes a young person could ask for.
2. Ren Amamiya from Persona 5 The Animation
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: April 8, 2018 – September 30, 2018
Ren may seem like your average high school student, but at night, he’s a hero fighting for justice and against corruption. As it turns out, the incident that leads to his probation was all a sham because he was trying to protect a woman from being harassed. Due to the person he saved the woman from was a powerful politician, he ends up becoming the criminal. Even when his situation has him initially alienated at his new school, he manages to make friends with most of the outcasts to become the Phantom Thieves.
Thanks to their abilities to enter a person’s “palace” through an app on their phones, they can use such powers to make the adults around them accountable for their crimes. Ren is a great male character because he wants to see adults be a good example for society due to his personal experiences and how his peers are affected by them. He knows what it’s like to be a victim of such corruption and it motivates him to fight the power. Through Ren, audience members can learn you’re never too young or too oppressed to rage against the machine.
1. Joe from Megalo Box
- Episodes: 13
- Air Dates: April 6, 2018 – June 29, 2018
At number one, we have Joe from Megalo Box. Originally named Junk Dog, he adopts the name Joe on his fake ID out of inspiration from an electronic billboard that uses Joe as a slang for men. Seeing he’s just a man, Joe just seemed to fit. Despite being a talented boxer, he’s initially forced to throw fights due to his trainer’s debts to the local mob. However, he has the chance to clear his trainer’s debts after seeing the grand prize of the upcoming Megalomania tournament. Not only does he want to win the money, he wants to prove himself by beating Yuri, the heavy favorite to win.
Joe is the ultimate underdog in the Megalomania boxing tournament. Not only is he undersized, but after some difficulties getting the appropriate gear which is necessary to compete, he decides to fight without it further putting him at more of a n overwhelming disadvantage (and it’s in the rules that he doesn’t have to). He shows that through will, skill, hard work, dedication, and sacrifice anyone can win. When it comes to being an underdog or being seen as a bum, Joe demonstrates that you if you want it, you really have to work hard to get it and not only will there be other fighters in your way, but politics and the establishment are going to play a part in trying to keep you down. Sometimes, the fight in the ring isn’t the only struggle, but the fights out them as well. As long as you never give up, hard work will eventually pay off.
Positive male characters in media and most especially in anime can come in many forms. They can even be teenagers, which tends to be common in anime due to cultural reasons that they see that period of when people have the most freedom. Considering how some teens in real life have done their part in trying to help their communities, anime shows in its own way how that’s possible. Other characters on this list are also teachers, some of the most influential people in our lives. While the profession is overwhelmingly female, some anime demonstrates that men as teachers are also capable of being a positive influence.
Then there are those that are athletes whether they be amateur or professional. While NBA legend Sir Charles Barkley once made a controversial commercial admitting he’s not a role model, a lot of children, especially boys, look up to them. Considering the presence they have on society, some athletes in real life participate in community service and donate to numerous charities. We’re not saying The Round Mound of Rebound is right or wrong, but he strongly iterated through interviews that if anyone needs to be seen as a role model, it has to be a parent, teacher, someone in the service, or a first responder, and we feel that the males we chose represent some of those qualities and we can’t disagree with the notion that someone who puts themselves before others are the true role models.
Through anime, audience can better acquire the ideal qualities of how males should and really do conduct themselves. Many fans see Kenshiro from the old Hokuto no Ken anime as the ultimate definition of what being a man is. He’s got bad ass moves, a killer body, and he fights to protect the innocent. Show to anime and non-anime fans alike and chances are, that’s what they think a real man is and not someone like Shin or Jagi. When men see someone in trouble or see something’s wrong, in reality, all men are never afraid to act and the characters we chose best portray that.