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When it comes to trying to find a solution to overcome a problem in anime, it’s not enough to merely have a special ability or certain items in order to solve it: you also need to execute a plan of some sort. More often than not the strategy that can be successfully executed is what separates the characters that triumph from the characters that don’t. Luck tends to favor the repared, and if you consider all the outcomes, both expected and unexpected, having a strategy in place can increase the odds in your favor.
Regardless of whether it’s some outlandish multi-step complicated plan or simply anticipating someone’s action and reacting accordingly, strategies are used in numerous ways and at varying levels throughout anime. While there may be many strategists, the best of the best are able to plan things out very effectively while at the same time anticipating multiple outcomes. Here are he top 10 strategists in anime.
10. Toua Tokuchi (One Outs)
One of the biggest mediums to possess elaborate strategies is in sports, where games can be won and lost by who better executes their strategy. In the case of Toua Tokuchi, his involvement in baseball puts a unique spin on this concept. As an extremely successful gambler in Okinawa before signing an unusual contract with Saikawa, Tokuchi’s take on the game is more perceptive than most. Tokuchi’s skills lie mainly within his ability to read the batter aka seemingly reading the batter’s mind, thereby throwing a pitch that will seemingly come out of nowhere and shock them. Combined with his other abilities of controlling the amount of spins he can put on the ball and deciding the pitch at the last possible second when he’s throwing it, it soon becomes obvious that it’s almost impossible to get a hit off Tokuchi. Definitely one of the best sports anime strategists.
9. Shiro (No Game No Life)
The main female protagonist of the series, Shiro does not exactly look like most strategists: not many people would consider that option upon seeing a female pre-teen NEET. That being said, Shiro’s actions speak for themselves. In addition to possessing an eidetic memory (which has allowed her to accomplish incredible feats such as learning 18 languages), Shiro’s strategies are best exemplified through playing games, especially chess. The best example of this would be her repeatedly defeating a computer chess program designed to beat a chess grandmaster at ease. Shiro’s weaknesses when it comes to the human element in a game are evident as well as her dependency on her brother, Sora; despite these, however, Shiro is certainly a powerhouse when it comes to gaming.
8. Edward Elric (FMA: Brotherhood)
There are multiple strategists seen in Fullmetal Alchemist, such as Roy Mustang and Van Hohenheim, who both exemplify strategic thinking in their fights. However, Edward Elric demonstrates multiple times throughout the series that he is almost always one step ahead of his opponent both in fights as well as outside them, such as his setup to trickFather Cornello in revealing his true intentions to the unwitting townsfolk. In addition to Ed’s perceptive abilities, his unique ability to incorporate his opponent’s alchemy style into his own combat alchemy allows him to formulate strategies that few other alchemists can implement, especially since Ed can perform alchemy without the use of a Transmutation Circle. A perfect example of this can be seen when Ed begins to use Scar’s technique of the deconstruction level of alchemy. Ed may have his shortcomings, but both his combat strategies as well as his plans exemplify how great of a strategist he is.
7. Sanji (One Piece)
Sanji’s inclusion on this list may be surprising at first, as most of the time during each story’s arc he’s displaying his skills as a chef or chasing after beautiful women the Straw Hats encounter (in addition to Nami and Robin). That being said, Sanji seems to consistently display an uncanny ability to be a thorn in the side of the arc’s main villain by planning ahead, which earns Luffy’s and even Zoro’s respect. Some classic examples of this would be breaking Enel’s airship, closing the Gates of Justice as the Straw Hats are escaping Enies Lobby, and leading Crocodile on a wild goose chase with Chopper. More recently, Sanji was in control of Caesar’s heart, a major trump card in terms of the Straw Hats’ alliance with Trafalgar Law and their enemies in Big Mom and Kaido. Not only does Sanji think things through with the various implications that can result, he also figures out what to do with the Vinsmoke Family and his arranged marriage to Charlotte Pudding. Make no mistake: Sanji may be stupid at times, but when it comes down to it, he’s not only one of the smartest Straw Hats, but a legit strategist as well.
6. Johan Liebheart (Monster)
Johan Liebheart is a perfect example of a strategist who uses his skills to manipulate others. With his ultimate goal being the only one left standing at the end of the world, Liebheart focuses on survival, using both his deductive reasoning skills as well as his charisma to manipulate others into becoming loyal allies as well as obtaining vast power and enough wealth to carry out his plans. The amount of actions carried out by people Liebheart successfully manipulated as well as the number of premeditated murders Liebheart committed both in childhood and adulthood could constitute its own list. Certainly one of the most strategic anime characters for the side of evil.
5. Nara Shikamaru (Naruto)
Shikamaru may be lazy and more committed to avoiding doing any actual work, but as the series progresses, we learn not only how smart Shikamaru truly is, but just how much of a strategist he is as well. Shikamaru generally takes the same approach to his missions no matter what the circumstances are: he strives to be aware of all actions taken both by his allies as well as his opponents and to keep track of everything around him. This is exemplified early on in the series in both his Chunin Exam matches with Kin and Temari as well as his attempt to lead a false trail for the Oto-nin so that Naruto could pursue Sasuke and Gaara. It is because of these actions that Shikamaru is promoted to the rank of chunin as well as put in charge of the Sasuke Recovery Team. Shikamaru at his best is able plan dozens of moves ahead of his opponent as well as plan at least 10 strategies later on in the series, thus making him a legitimate strategist in combat.
4. Shiroe (Log Horizon)
The main protagonist of the series, Shiroe is an MMORPG strategist both in the current story as well as in the anime’s recent past. 4 years before the main story, Shiroe was originally the strategist for the Debauchery Tea Party, a legendary group of players known for completing raids with a small group of members that weren’t part of a traditional guild. Shiroe’s strategies for completing Kanami’s wild ideas were impressive, especially since most players would consider Kanami’s requests completely unreasonable. In the current story, Shiroe is in a different dynamic, as he is the founder of the Log Horizon Guild, made up of both his friends as well as beginners. With the event known as the Catastrophe resulting in players being trapped in the virtual world of Elder Tale, Shiroe’s extensive knowledge of the game combined with his years of experience results in some pretty impressive strategies in terms of looking out for the Guild’s interests as well as overcoming their foes. Saying that Shiroe is a legitimate gaming strategist would only be putting it mildly.
3. Yang Wen-li (Legend of Galactic Heroes)
An officer in the Free Planets Star Fleet, Yang Wen-Li is regarded as one of the greatest generals in history and on par with Reinhard von Lohengramm, the prodigious Imperial general. Yang Wen-li is widely respected due to his unwavering commitment to democracy throughout his entire life as well as being a simple man who sought no great ambition. He is also respected for his strategies in combat, as not only was he never defeated in battle, but also proved to hold his own against Reinhard. Both generals executed so many strategies in multiple battles throughout their rivalry that makes it impossible to mention one without mentioning the other. Yang Wen-li (and Reinhard von Lohengramm) certainly rank among the best anime military strategists.
2. Light Yagami (Death Note)
So who is the better strategist, Light Yagami or L Lawliet? Truly two of the best strategists in anime going head to head to figure out the other’s identity first and eliminate them would result in some excellent strategies, and we see pretty clearly early on that the victor can be either of them. The fact that L was able to dupe Light in revealing Kira’s identity to be Japanese was impressive, in addition to the fact that L is relying on his own intellect and not having any outside advantages that Light has, such as the Death Note itself and the Shinigami Ryuk. However, Light’s minor strategies at the beginning of the series to prevent suspicion, his own intellectual skills, and his master strategy that he pulls off to finally eliminate L give Light the edge of being not only the best strategist in Death Note, but also one of the best anime strategists thus far.
1. Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass)
The protagonist of Code Geass, Lelouch has certainly earned his place as arguably the best anime strategist. The numerous abilities Lelouch possesses in terms of strategy making is ridiculous. He has a genius-level intellect. He can analyze and break down the simplest of clues in order to obtain crucial facts. He can thus formulate and execute his strategies and counter strategies with excellent precision at incredible speeds and make it look easy. He is also charismatic and persuasive, especially as his alter-ego Zero. Not to mention the Geass he possesses, allowing him to force people to obey his orders without question. The amount of tactical planning he does for the biggest events in the series to even the smallest of settings where he displays an incredible talent for chess shows that no matter what the circumstances are, Lelouch not only has multiple options to choose from, but also the ability to execute them, making him the best anime strategist.
Strategists might not get the same kind of credit as the hero, the villain, or the comic relief guy, but they’re without a doubt an essential addition to an anime’s cast, especially if the plot is one where strategy can make or break a mission or fight. These 10 strategists certainly exemplify the best of what a strategists is capable of. But what are your guys’ thoughts? Should L have had his own entry? Should there have been more sports strategists, such as Sadaharu Inui from The Prince of Tennis? Is there any other obvious strategist missing that should’ve been included? Let us know in the comments!