The Winter 2021 anime season is boiling over with great characters, both old and new. Many of them have rightfully soared in popularity online, like the plucky spider Kumoko and the adult version of Eren Yeager, but others (especially those in supporting roles) have fallen by the wayside. We’re here today to shine a well-deserved spotlight on five of our favorite underrated characters of the season, so please join us in celebrating them!
5. Niki Hanada from Dr. Stone: Stone Wars
In the year 5739, Niki is a member of Tsukasa’s Empire of Might, valued for her superior strength and no-nonsense attitude. But before the worldwide petrification that brought about a new Stone Age, she was a bullied schoolgirl who took comfort in Lillian Weinberg’s music. Senku sways her to the Kingdom of Science’s side by promising to protect the last remaining recording of Lillian’s song “One Small Step”, and in return, Niki helps them perfect the details of their plan to impersonate the singer and achieve a bloodless victory over Tsukasa’s empire. Watching her lecture Gen on the subtleties of Lillian’s accent is endlessly entertaining, and we love how her design gives her a unique look that shows off her muscles. We can’t wait to see what else she does in the future!
4. Tooru Ishikawa from Horimiya
This poor boy just can’t catch a break. Tooru gets rejected by Hori in the very first episode, gets soda spilled all over him right when he’s reeling from the (incorrect) revelation that his friends got down and dirty in an empty classroom, and can’t manage to tell his actual crush Yuki that he likes her. Yuki ends up recruiting him to pretend to be her boyfriend so she can shake off an unwanted admirer, which naturally turns the awkwardness up a million more notches. To his credit, Tooru is unwaveringly sincere and tries his best to confess to Yuki through clumsy wordplay, so maybe his feelings will eventually reach her. We just want this purple-haired himbo to actually succeed at something for once...
3. Mihai Florescu from Kemono Jihen
Mihai is a semi-immortal vampire who has spent his many centuries of life mastering countless skills (cooking, sewing, assassination, you name it), and mostly spends his time these days playing online games in a back room of Inugami’s office. On the rare occasions that he leaves his cave, he helps the team with custom-made gadgets like a weaponized RC car and an AI-enabled stuffed animal. But since he’s much more interested in entertaining himself than ensuring the kids’ safety, he sometimes adds extra roadblocks that make missions more difficult than they would be otherwise. We would honestly watch an entire spinoff of Mihai just screwing around while important stuff is happening offscreen.
2. Willy Tybur from Shingeki no Kyojin: The Final Season (Attack on Titan Final Season)
The charismatic head of the Tybur family is only in the anime for a few episodes, but he definitely makes his limited screentime count. Willy and his clan had remained hidden from view for many years, quietly passing down the Warhammer Titan and cooperating with the Marley military to ensure the downfall of Paradis Island. He finally makes his grand entrance into the public eye with a flashy declaration of war against Eren Yeager, believing that he can make the world a better place if everyone works together to destroy the “island devils”. Despite ostensibly being on the “evil” side, Willy is a very likeable man who desperately wants to protect his family from harm and tries to use what little power he has to change the world for good. We just wish he would’ve stuck around longer!
1. Riz from Beastars Season 2
Originally just a background character with very few lines in the first season, Riz the grizzly bear (see what they did there?) becomes much more important in Season 2. Since bears are so terrifyingly strong, they’re forced to take medication that atrophies their muscles in addition to the meat-craving-control meds that all carnivores must take. Riz suffers from severe headaches as a side effect and despises that he has to modify his body so heavily just to fit into society, but maintains such an ironclad friendly façade that even his roommates and the members of the drama club see him as a harmless jolly guy. He just wishes that he could be friends with herbivores as his true self, medication be damned. There have been some success stories between carnivores and herbivores, even at his own school so, might it really be possible...?
We’re also huge fans of Joe and Cherry Blossom from SK8 the Infinity (particularly because of their bickering married couple vibes and history with Adam), as well as the good-hearted slacker Red Blood Cell AC1677 from Cells at Work: Code Black. But who are your favorite underrated anime characters of Winter 2021? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!