Fear of the darkness is something deeply ingrained in us as humans – what waits in the shadows could very well kill us without even having to defend itself. So in the pantheon of superpowers, it’s no surprise that plenty of fictional characters have mastery over the terrifying element of darkness. And over the years, anime has shown us far more creative applications for shadows and darkness than we could ever think of.
Surprisingly, most of the characters on this list aren’t villains. They may have demonic ancestry or just a moody attitude, but shadows can be used for good just as often as they’re exploited for evil. Let’s shine some light on the Top 10 Characters Who Wield the Power of Darkness!
10. Celty Sturluson from Durarara!!
- Episodes: 24
- Air Date: January 2010 – June 2010
Celty is one of the most down-to-earth and optimistic characters in Durarara, despite being a Dullahan with a missing head. She comes to Japan on a quest to find it, but ends up making friends with a group of humans instead. She’s relatively strong on her own, but her ability to produce solid shadows from her body is what really sets her apart.
The shadowy substance that she creates can shapeshift into pretty much anything –gloves, a chariot, her entire outfit, and whatever else she can think of. Celty worries a bit about whether or not she’ll be accepted in society with her weird powers and missing head, but Shinra and her faithful familiar Shooter (who usually takes the form of either a headless horse or a motorcycle) will always be by her side.
9. Alessi from JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders)
- Episodes: 24
- Air Date: April 2014 – September 2014
Alessi is a scumbag, plain and simple. He enjoys picking on people weaker than him, and even admits it out loud with no shame. Fittingly, his stand Sethan gives him the ability to reverse someone’s age until they’re helpless against him. The stand takes the form of an eerie sentient shadow that tries to come into contact with its opponent’s own shadow. The longer the opponent is exposed to the stand’s power, the further backwards they age – a few seconds can reduce a full grown man into a 7-year-old, while 10 seconds can turn a woman into a feeble fetus.
Anyone in the Joestar group could easily defeat Alessi in a fair battle, so he uses cheap tactics to force Polnareff and Jotaro into fighting with severe handicaps. They eventually find a way to defeat him, but we would’ve loved to see old Joseph get de-aged into his younger self and beat the crap out of Alessi with hamon!
8. Yami Sukehiro from Black Clover
- Episodes: 49+
- Air Date: October 2017 – currently airing
Yami has a bit of an unusual personality for a dark magic user. He’s normally a man of few words, but if anything agitates him at all (like if someone bumps into him), he immediately turns into a firecracker. He prefers solving problems with tough love, punching things, and threats rather than anything resembling restraint.
He carries this attitude into his fighting style as well. He channels dark power into his katana and uses it to wildly slash his opponents into oblivion. He can also bind opponents with shadows and nullify light magic with a black hole attack. Yami’s tenacity and strength make him a great leader for Asta and friends – people who normal squad captains might leave behind.
7. Shikamaru Nara from Naruto
- Episodes: 220
- Air Date: October 2002 – February 2007
Shikamaru’s ninja techniques aren’t anywhere near as flashy as powers can get in the Naruto series, but they get the job done. His Shadow Imitation Technique extends his own shadow into that of his opponent, forcing them to mirror any movements he makes. He craftily uses this to manipulate his Chunin Exam opponent into smacking her head against a wall, which gained him the only Chunin promotion in Part 1 of the anime.
Later on, Shikamaru learns new applications for his shadows, such as strangling people, moving his shadow independently, and saving his allies from precarious situations. He looks like a lazy bum and purposefully doesn’t stand out, but Shikamaru’s intelligence and shadow techniques can be truly frightening.
6. Meliodas from Nanatsu no Taizai (The Seven Deadly Sins)
- Episodes: 24
- Air Date: October 2014 – March 2015
Meliodas seems young and harmless, but he’s actually a 3000-year-old demon who led the legendary Ten Commandments group. As a demon, he can produce darkness from his body and use it for anything from forming wings to reattaching severed limbs. It also enhances his strength and magical ability.
When he unlocks his full demonic powers, Meliodas enters Assault Mode –a form with immense power, but with the drawback of removing his feelings and emotions. It seems like, even for heroic characters, darkness isn’t an element that plays nice.
5. Fumikage Tokoyami from Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia)
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: April 2016 – June 2016
Tokoyami may look a bit scary with his bird-shaped head and shadowy familiar, but he’s a proud hero-in-training at U.A. High School and a loyal friend to his classmates. His Quirk gives him control over a sentient shadow (named Dark Shadow) that can aid him in battle with its claws and incredible range.
He does struggle to control it, though. If left in darkness for too long during a fight, as seen in the Forest Training Camp arc, Dark Shadow goes berserk and starts to consume him. Luckily, Izuku and friends come to save him just in time. Tokoyami later develops a super move called Black Ankh that mitigates Dark Shadow’s weaknesses - he keeps it close to him like a suit of armor, making it much easier to control.
4. Hayate Yagami from Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s)
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: October 2005 – December 2005
For a demure little orphan girl in a wheelchair, Hayate has some serious power at her disposal. She’s the mistress of the Book of Darkness, which functions like an intelligent computer program that defends itself and its master. The master program, named Reinforce, can use shadow-based attacks that can attack at various ranges and bind opponents with darkness.
When she first got her powers, the Book of Darkness did everything it could to protect her –which meant stealing mana and attacking other people. Nanoha and friends eventually save her from the rampant program and help her gain control over it, allowing her to help the group in the future.
3. Rogue Cheney from Fairy Tail
- Episodes: 175
- Air Date: October 2009 – March 2013
As one of the Twin Dragons of Sabertooth and the Shadow Dragon Slayer, Rogue is not to be underestimated. He was raised by the dragon Skiadrum and implanted with a special lacrima that enhances his magic, so he can use powerful techniques without many drawbacks. He can melt into his own shadow to move swiftly, produce large blasts of darkness from his mouth, create bladed weapons out of darkness, and much more.
In the latter half of the Grand Magic Games arc, his evil future self comes to wreak havoc. He killed his best friend Sting and stole his White Dragon Slayer power, giving him mastery over both light and darkness. This version of Rogue can suck enemies into a black vortex, forcefully command dragons, and create sharp piercing attacks from rays of light and shadow. After defeating him, the current Rogue promises that he won’t let that future happen.
2. Marshall D. Teach/Blackbeard from One Piece
- Episodes: 852+
- Air Date: October 1999 – currently airing
Blackbeard’s disconcerting personality, which seems to shift randomly between intelligent confidence and whimpering cowardice, surprisingly isn’t the strangest thing about him. He’s the only known character in One Piece to have the powers of two devil fruits – both the Yami Yami no Mi and the Gura Gura no Mi. The Yami Yami no Mi gives him power over darkness, which functions like a black hole that can absorb and destroy anything. But its most terrifying power is that it can nullify an opponent’s devil fruit ability if Blackbeard touches them.
Similarly to Future Rogue, Blackbeard stole the Gura Gura no Mi power from his comrade Whitebeard by killing him. This fruit gives its user control over earthquakes, which is especially dangerous in the hands of the unstable Blackbeard. Using both fruits, his destructive capacity is terrifying.
1. Pride from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Air Date: April 2009 – July 2010
Pride is the oldest of the homunculi, and easily the most deadly. He’s essentially a massive shadow armed with dozens of eyes and rows of razor-sharp teeth who lurks in the secret tunnels underneath Amestris. When he needs to move above ground, he inhabits the body of the president’s young son, Selim Bradley. He’s been able to conduct reconnaissance for decades while remaining undetected.
If anyone ever finds him out, Pride is clever enough to get the upper hand anyway. One of his shadow arms latches onto Hawkeye, constantly haunting her and threatening to slit her throat if she exposes him. And even when the Elrics use flash bombs and trap him in a completely dark structure (knowing that he can’t make shadows if the environment is all bright or all dark), he uses Morse code to call for help. Edward is only able to finally defeat him once he tricks Pride into letting his guard down.
In anime, darkness can be used for just about anything – forming weapons, turning people into children, slicing and dicing, and much more. Our instincts tell us to fear the obscuring darkness, but it’s hard to deny how useful these weaponized shadows seem to be. We hope anime gives us more creative darkness powers in the future!
What did you think of our list? Who’s your favorite shadow wielder? Did we leave anyone out? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!