2017 proved to be a fantastic year for anime, with each season providing an array of engaging and well-written shows. From the action-heavy My Hero Academia to the emotionally gripping The Ancient Magus' Bride, there was something for fans of every genre. As the new year gets underway, bringing with it a list of potentially great series, now is the ideal time to look back over the last twelve months and pick the best of the bunch.
In terms of 2017's male characters, diversity was the word of the day. While there were a few characterized by overly masculine personalities, many of the best characters possessed depth beyond society's restrictive boundaries. Once in a while, a great male character is one that is defined by his sensitivity rather than his strength.
Here are 2017's top 10 male anime characters.
10. Kazuma Satou from Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! 2)
- Episodes: 10
- Air Date: Jan 12, 2017 – Mar 16, 2017
After dying in a particularly hilarious manner, this otaku is resurrected within an alternate reality. As Kazuma is allowed to take one thing with him, he ends up dragging the goddess Aqua along for the ride. While isekai anime are a dime a dozen, KonoSuba works primarily due to Kazuma's hilarious personality. He is far from a special or, as Aqua quickly learns, heroic.
In some instances, Kazuma serves as a straight-man to the rest of the cast, but his aggressive and sarcastic character ensures that he is never boring. Season 2 proved to be a great continuation of its predecessor, with Kazuma becoming considerably more jaded as the episodes progressed. Due to his lack of special abilities, nothing ever comes easy for this 16-year-old teenager, but he is far from oblivious or weak. As one of the more relatable main characters of the year, hopefully, this is not the end for Kazuma.
9. Ichirou Inuyashiki from Inuyashiki (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
- Episodes: 11
- Air Date: Oct 13, 2017 – Dec 22, 2017
From the opening scene, it quickly becomes apparent that Ichirou is far from a typical protagonist. In a delightful change of pace, the main character of this action series is not an angsty teenage boy who just wants to live a normal life. Ichirou is a 58-year-old man who actually looks much older than that. Seriously, he could easily pass for seventy, and his age is used effectively throughout the anime.
Despite trying to make the best out of a bad situation, Ichirou is treated like dirt by his family and peers. His daughter prefers to describe him as her grandfather, while Ichirou is generally ignored by his wife. After learning that he has cancer, Ichirou finds himself endowed with a strange machine-like power that grants him extraordinary abilities. Instantly, the cancer is cured and he sets out to stop a dangerous teenager with similar powers.
Ichirou is an interesting character that we rarely see in anime. Initially, he is presented as being vulnerable and weak, both physically and mentally, making his eventual rise to the status of a hero all that more rewarding.
8. Souma Yukihira from Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara (Food Wars! The Third Plate)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Oct 4, 2017 – Dec 20, 2017
As the son of Jouichirou Yukihira, Souma grew up working in his father's diner. After being accepted into Tootsuki Culinary Academy, he quickly learned that the food industry tends to be rather snobbish, with his peers quickly labeling him as inferior. Thankfully, this attitude only served to further fuel Souma's passion for cooking, as he set out to prove everyone wrong.
When it comes to the storyline, Food Wars' third season took a more shounen approach. For the first time, there is a genuine villain who is trying to close all the restaurants in Japan. It ended up being quite a departure from the previous two seasons, but Souma survived the transition unscathed. He was always presented as someone who is unwilling to back down from a challenge or compromise on his beliefs; therefore, it made sense that Souma would lead the charge against the academy's new dictator.
Souma is the perfect balance of hilarious and awesome, often going from a fantastic show of dominance to gracefully accepting defeat in the very next episode. Souma is far from infallible and that makes him lovable.
7. Leonardo Watch from Kekkai Sensen & Beyond (Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Oct 8, 2017 – Dec 24, 2017
Leonardo Watch might be Blood Blockade's protagonist but he is not usually presented as the real hero. Serving as a fantastic follow-up to the previous season, Battlefront & Beyond generally allows Klaus von Reinherz to deliver the winning blow. As the leader of Libra, Klaus is arguably the coolest persona in the series.
Here is the thing, the strongest or coolest character is not always the best. While Leonardo does possess a few worthwhile abilities, he is easily the weakest member of Libra. Surprisingly, this vulnerability is exactly why Leonardo steals the show. In a city filled with overpowered heroes and demons, this young photographer feels extremely human and run-of-the-mill. He hates his job and this city, but he sucks it up to try and help his sickly sister. Leonardo constantly gets in terrifying situations but he pushes through because there is someone dependent on him.
Leonardo's character development is about learning to believe in himself and his companions. While not necessarily getting physically stronger, Leonardo has the fortitude to withstanding nearly anything.
6. Gintoki from Gintama. (Gintama Season 5)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Jan 9, 2017 – Mar 27, 2017
2017 showed fans two very different sides to Gintama. The Winter season focused exclusively on action and furthering the plot, while the Slip Arc returned to the stand-alone comedic episodes that helped establish Hideaki Sorachi's manga as a classic. Fans got to experience the serious and comedic version of Gintoki, with both delivering some great moments. For this entry, we are referring to the former.
By now, Gintoki is a borderline legendary character. The White Demon is a deadly samurai who gave up his sword after Earth was taken over by the Amanto. With the final arc currently airing, Gintoki returned to his violent days as a young samurai who left hundreds of bloody corpses in his wake. While the Winter season was largely devoid of laughter, Gintoki delivered the majority of the humor. Whether he is slaying an entire army or eating a chocolate parfait, the White Demon always comes across as a complete badass.
Gintoki's best days did not really occur in 2017, which is why he is not ranked higher.
5. Regu from Made in Abyss
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: Jul 7, 2017 – Sep 29, 2017
Made in Abyss ended up being something really special. From the gorgeous animation to the immaculate worldbuilding, the anime got nearly everything right. Obviously, this praise extends to the characters, with Regu serving as one of the highlights of the entire show. While his physical appearance suggests that he is just an ordinary boy, Regu is actually a robot who suffers from amnesia. His memory only goes back to when he first met Riko, who even got to name him.
Regu and Riko's relationship is heartwarming and authentic. While traveling down the massive abyss, these young children are both struggling to understand their place in the world. As the season progressed, their friendship deepened and they became nearly inseparable. Regu is a rather powerful creation, to the point that he is equipped with beam cannons that can destroy nearly anything, but this robot is also a child. He cries when he feels scared and, mostly due to his inability to remember his past, can be rather unassertive.
Simultaneously powerful and vulnerable, Regu is the type of person that could destroy a city but would cry at the mere thought of it.
4. Shouto Todoroki from Boku no Hero Academia 2nd Season (My Hero Academia 2)
- Episodes: 25
- Air Date: Apr 1, 2017 – Sep 30, 2017
In My Hero Academia's second season, Midoriya and Bakugou were both allowed to shine; but, Shouto Todoroki is the hero who earned a place on the list. Prior to this year, Todoroki was an interesting but largely mysterious character. Capable of controlling fire and ice, this conflicted teenager ranks among the strongest students at Yuuei. Despite having a powerful Quirk, Todoroki constantly battles with self-loathing. As the son of the highly respected Endeavor, this child was birthed just to be a tool. Endeavor married Todoroki's mother merely to create someone that possesses a Quirk capable of defeating All-Might.
As the tournament arc developed, Todoroki's backstory was revealed in small doses. Endeavor's style of parenting generally consisted of pushing his son to the point of breaking. This led to Shouto refusing to use anything but his ice attacks. After suffering years of abuse at her husband's hands, Todoroki's mother cannot stand to even look at him, leading to one of the most dysfunctional families in anime history. While Midoriya continued to be an inspirational protagonist, Todoroki matured enough to accept someone else's help and even used his fire ability.
3. Yakumo Yuurakutei from Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Jan 7, 2017 – Mar 25, 2017
Yotarou could have easily made the grade, but we had to give it to his sensei. Yakumo Yuurakutei refers to the rakugo master, with the name being passed down to the next generation. The current Yakumo is the 8th person to receive the title but he quickly gained a reputation for being unwilling to take an apprentice, leading to fears that the position might end with him. This changed when Yotarou strolled into his life.
At first, Yakumo comes across as distant and nearly unlikeable; but, as the show progresses, more of his character is revealed. Previously known as Bon, this master used to be filled with doubt on whether he should continue to pursue rakugo, as he struggled to understand his audience. Yakumo is a hard and complicated teacher, but he slowly accepts Yotarou and gives him a few opportunities to stand on his own two feet.
This season showed a more human side to Yakumo since he was no longer presented as someone well beyond Yotarou's reach.
2. Elias Ainsworth from Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus' Bride)
- Episodes: 24
- Air Date: Oct 8, 2017 – ongoing
If there is one character that perfectly encapsulates the mantra to not judge a book by its cover, that would have to be Elias Ainsworth. The Ancient Magus' Bride starts by introducing the 15-year-old Chise Hatori, a beautiful but broken girl, just as she is sold to Elias. During the first half hour, this large humanoid has already forcibly washed his slave. Thankfully, the story ends up taking a much more wholesome tone than the initially expected.
Elias is a powerful magician who was ostracized due to his strange appearance. While he could be quite a few different species, Elias is definitely not human, forcing other mages to generally stay away from him. Despite his outward appearance, Elias proves to be a gentle and loving soul, who slowly breathes life back into Chise. This sorcerer can be intimidating, as demonstrated by a handful of moments spread throughout the anime, but he is driven by a desire to protect Chise.
What makes Elias a memorable character is how he slowly starts to depend on and trust Chise. At first, he is unwilling to let her bath on her own; but, before long, they are equals and inseparable.
1. Takashi Natsume from Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Natsume's Book of Friends Season 6)
- Episodes: 11
- Air Date: Apr 12, 2017 – Jun 21, 2017
After six seasons and a movie, Takashi Natsume has really come a long way. Due to the series' slow pace and relaxing tone, Natsume's character development was rather subtle. There is not a huge change from the first to the last episode; but, by this point, the teenager is practically family. As suggested by this season's poster, Natsume is no longer alone.
Following in the footsteps of his grandmother, Natsume is capable of seeing spirits and inherited the Book of Friends, granting controlling over any youkai whose name is written within it. Throughout the years, audiences have watched as this gentle soul was constantly rejected by his peers due to his ability. These flashbacks were usually really heartbreaking, forcing the protagonist to emotionally distance himself from the rest of the world.
For arguably the first time, Natsume seemed to be in a happy place, as he found people willing to accept him even when they are unable to understand what he is going through. Natsume's journey is far from over, but he finally has somewhere to call home.
This was a stand-out year for anime, with many great characters that surely left an impression on their viewers. Whether they made us cry or told one gut-busting joke after another, these men are a testament to their gender and they will be remembered for years to come. Hopefully, 2018 proves to be just as memorable.
Who was your favorite male character? Please let us know in the comment section below.