One of our favorite things about anime is that it tends to be so over-the-top. Crazy costumes, grandiose displays of emotion, intense action, and gravity-defying hair are par for the course in this world. But nothing puts us on the edge of our seats more than when our favorite characters defy death in spectacular ways.
Whether they hang on through their own strength or some sort of miraculous assistance, these ironclad survivors are living proof that the grim reaper can’t always win. Let’s take a look at the top 10 anime characters who narrowly escaped death!
Since we’re talking about daring escapes from death, there will be spoilers for every series on this list. Please tread carefully!
10. Kouji Testuya from Shinkon Gattai Godannar!! (Godannar)
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: October 2003 – December 2003
Piloting a giant mecha is quite the dangerous job, and the cast of Shinkon Gattai Godannar knows that all too well. But special mention goes to Kouji Tetsuya, the hot-blooded supporting pilot who gets shot down in nearly every battle. His friends tend to write him off for dead immediately afterwards, until he inevitably crawls out of his mech with a cry of “I’m not dead...”
Despite being named after two skilled fighters from the Mazinger series, Kouji doesn’t seem to live up to his namesakes. He’s basically the Monty Python “I’m not dead yet!” guy, but for anime. It sounds like a cruel joke for poor Kouji, but there could be worse claims to fame.
9. Kenichi Shirahama from Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi (Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple)
- Episodes: 50
- Air Date: October 2006 – September 2007
Kenichi isn’t a fighter at heart. All he wants in life is to read, tend his garden, and pine after his first and only love, Miu. But once she introduces him to a legion of teachers who can make him stronger, he learns exactly what it takes to protect what he holds dear – more near-death experiences than he can count.
The martial arts masters are so hardcore that they repeatedly pummel him into the ground, subject him to torture devices, and pretty much kill him every chance they get. Luckily, two of them are medical geniuses who patch him up whenever his soul starts to leave his body, but it’s only so that they can throw more punishment his way. Kenichi comes out of this training as a fighting champion, but he literally had to go to hell and back to do it.
8. Hitomi Uzaki from Killing Bites
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: January 2018 – March 2018
In the world of Killing Bites, therianthropes rule the underground fighting scene. Their hybrid animal DNA allows them to take on the appearance and natural weapons of whatever creature they’ve been combined with. And strangely enough, the strongest among them is Hitomi, also known as Brute Ratel. And a ratel is, of course, also known as a honey badger.
Whether or not she’s actually the living incarnation of a meme, Hitomi kicks serious tail against opponents who theoretically should be able to kill her in seconds. The most intense moment of death-defying action takes place when she faces off against Brute Pangolin, who had previously been shown punching a crocodile man through the brain. He rips off her arm and stabs her through the chest, but Hitomi’s fierce tenacity propels her to victory anyway. She throws her severed arm into Pangolin’s eye, and then punches him straight through the skull for a pleasing symmetry to the battle royale. This honey badger just does not care.
7. Phosphophyllite from Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: October 2017 – December 2017
Okay, so gems can’t technically die since they aren’t made of flesh and bone, but Phosphophyllite has absolutely earned his place on this list. Over the course of only 12 episodes, Phos has been shattered to pieces multiple times, been completely disintegrated by corrosive snail goo, and permanently lost his original arms and legs. By the end of it all, he’s exactly the battle-hardened warrior he wanted to be, but with haphazard replacement limbs and a much bleaker outlook on life.
He’s also racked up quite the guilt complex, since he accidentally let his partner Antarcticite be kidnapped by the Moon People. His brushes with death have changed him both physically and mentally into an almost completely different person – and even though he’s much more powerful now, he still doesn’t fit in with the other gems. It’s a sad fate, but Phos accepts it and vows to use his new abilities to save his kidnapped friends and get to the bottom of the Moon People mystery.
6. Eren Jaeger from Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Air Date: April 2013 – September 2013
If you don’t already know what you’re getting into with this anime, Eren’s “death” in the first real battle of Attack on Titan can be pretty jarring. He’s been hyped up as the main character this whole time, but then gets chomped by a titan right in front of his best friend. Missing multiple limbs and slowly drowning in stomach acid, Eren starts to lose his mind. All seems lost, when suddenly...
He bursts out as a giant titan monster himself! Coming so close to death awakened his hidden titan shifting powers, propelling him instantly from just another casualty to humanity’s greatest hope. He’ll still face death at every turn, but from now on, he has a real way to fight back.
5. Madoka Kaname from Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: January 2011 – April 2011
Madoka’s escape from death is a bit complicated, as tends to be the case in anything involving time travel. In the first timeline, she was a relatively weak magical girl who died protecting Homura from the monstrous Walpurgisnacht. Homura used her new powers to go back in time to prevent Madoka’s death, but her failed efforts over countless timelines concentrated so much magic energy on her friend that Madoka became the most powerful witch ever (it makes perfect sense in context, we swear).
In the current and final timeline, Madoka realizes how to break the cycle of her own death and that of every other magical girl by using her immense built up potential to turn into a goddess and whisk dying magical girls away before they become witches. She disappears from existence, only hanging on as a faint memory in the imagination of her baby brother. But to her, it was all worth it.
4. Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail
- Episodes: 175
- Air Date: October 2009 – March 2013
Just like Hitomi, Erza never lets the fact that she’s horribly outmatched get in the way of winning anyway. Even without her armor, her strength and conviction make her virtually undefeatable. The craziest example of this is when she fights the demon Kyoka in the Tartaros arc. Erza’s sense of pain has been artificially turned up to hundreds of times its normal sensitivity, and she’s been beaten to an absolute pulp. She’s blind from pain, but manages to stand up and deliver the final blow to Kyoka. How? Because she’s Erza.
It’s rare for anyone to actually die in Fairy Tail, but Erza scores so highly on this list because of how frequently she comes back from the brink of death. Even against such powerful foes as Jellal, Azama, and Minerva, she still comes out on top because of her dogged determination and outright refusal to give up. And, of course, with a little help from the almighty power of friendship.
3. Griffith from Kenpuu Denki Berserk (Berserk)
- Episodes: 25
- Air Date: October 1997 – April 1998
Nobody wants to be king more than Griffith. He’s spent his whole life in pursuit of power and influence, and seemed to be well on his way during his travels with the Band of the Hawk. But when his best friend Guts deserts him, he’s so crushed that he impulsively sleeps with a princess – a decision that her father doesn’t appreciate. Griffith is subjected to horrific torture for years, after which he’s become a shell of the confident man he once was. But there’s one more way he could achieve his dream... join forces with evil.
An all-powerful group of demons called the God Hand promises to make him powerful enough to create his own kingdom, if only he sacrifices the entire Band of the Hawk. He agrees, and makes Guts watch while their former friends are devoured and defiled by demons. Nothing, not even death, can stand in the way of Griffith and the kingdom that he knows he deserves.
2. Shinichi Izumi from Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (Parasyte -the maxim-)
- Episodes: 24
- Air Date: October 2014 – March 2015
In a show positively teeming with death at every turn, it’s downright amazing how Shinichi has stayed alive this long. Aliens called parasites have invaded the Earth and prey on humans as both hosts and food, and Shinichi is the only one who can fight back against them. He initially survived being infected because he was wearing headphones while asleep, so the parasite Migi couldn’t reach his brain and had to take over his right hand instead. But his real close call with death comes when his infected mother stabs him straight through the heart, and Migi has to come to the rescue.
In order to save his host, Migi spreads further throughout his body and repairs the damage with his own cells. He succeeds in saving Shinichi’s life, but now Shinichi is even more of a parasite than before. He starts to lose parts of his humanity, like his ability to cry and empathize with people. Like Phosphophyllite, he’s now been permanently changed by surviving such a narrow escape from death – and the change isn’t necessarily for the better.
1. Edward Elric from Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
- Episodes: 64
- Air Date: April 2009 – July 2010
Edward has been through a lot in his life. As a child, he lost his right arm, left leg, and his brother’s entire body in a botched alchemical experiment to bring back his dead mother. In his travels, he’s seen many friends die and has clawed his way through countless battles by the skin of his teeth. His most impressive feats have been escaping from the isolated void of Gluttony’s stomach, being stabbed through the torso with a steel construction beam, and in the alternate continuity of the 2003 anime, saving himself after being stabbed straight through the heart.
Other than the alchemy magic, the world of FMA largely follows the physics of the real world. So, unlike Hitomi and Erza, Ed can’t survive through sheer will alone. He’s bounced back from horrific injuries only by using his own wits and the mercy of others. If there’s anyone who deserves the number one spot on this list, it’s the Fullmetal Alchemist himself.
All of these characters have survived close calls with death, but the majority of them have come back stronger than ever before. Though they may carry physical and mental scars after such a traumatic experience, they get back on their feet and make good use of the second chance they’ve been given. Well, except for Kouji. He’s pretty much doomed to be a running gag forever.
What did you think of our list? Who are your favorite characters who have narrowly escaped death? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!