Viewers can usually spot the main character in an anime. Often, they visually stand out from the other characters or their backstory or introduction gives it away. Unsurprisingly, these characters’ stories take center stage. After all, they’re the stars.
But it’s the supporting cast members who help them achieve their goals by providing guidance, friendship, or comic relief. When done well, these characters’ personalities and backstories can actually steal the spotlight from the lead, leaving fans begging for more. So, here are a five anime side characters who deserve to take the lead.
Kakashi Hatake — Naruto
Despite the series literally being named after the main character, Naruto Uzumaki, the show still has many secondary characters that could take the lead, such as Kakashi Hatake, a shinobi from the Konohagakure’s Hatake clan. Hatake has an interesting backstory full of pain, anguish, and growth that’s worth further exploration. He loses his mother as a child, and subsequently his father, Sakumo Hatake, a ninja renowned for saving the Hidden Leaf Village on more than one occasion.
His father’s death, in particular, adversely affects the young ninja, as he watched his father fall from grace within the village after choosing to save his comrades over completing a mission. The disgraced ninja fell into a depression, which led to his untimely death and Kakashi’s obsession with completing missions — even at the cost of his comrades. Yet, despite his troubled past, Kakashi doesn’t become evil like so many other Naruto characters. In time, he even comes to understand his father’s decision when faced with a similar choice.
Consequently, Hatake’s becomes more confident and self-reliant, which helps him to acquire the skills necessary to become a mentor to the village’s young ninjas. Despite his reputation and solid ninja skills, Hatake has shown no signs of arrogance. His modesty, tragic backstory, and ninja abilities make him the perfect choice to take the lead. It also doesn’t hurt that Naruto creator, Masashi Kishimoto, agrees. Kishimoto said in an interview that if he were to create a Naruto series with a different lead, Hatake would be his first pick.
Levi Ackerman — Attack on Titan
Levi Ackerman (or Captain Levi to his comrades in arms) is the squad captain of the Special Operations Squad within the Scout Regiment. As such, many refer to him as humanity’s strongest soldier. But the decorated soldier’s past is filled with pain and loss. Not only did he lose his mother and friends, he also lost his entire squad. Despite this, he has never drifted away from his duties or lost his composure. His emotions stay hidden until he completes his mission. It’s a commendable quality that few characters in Attack on Titan possess, including the series’ main character, Eren Jaeger.
His skills on the battlefield, eccentric behavior (don’t stop by when he’s on a cleaning rampage), and cold charm draws viewers in. (Besides that, the squad captain has distinguishing features, such as the red cravat, that distinguishes him from the rest of the cast.) Despite his unapproachable and cold demeanor, Levi’s dexterity and suave personality make him more likable and deserving of the spotlight than Eren Jaeger, who spends most of his time on screen yelling and putting his comrades in unnecessary danger.
Roy Mustang — Fullmetal Alchemist
Roy Mustang, also known as the Flame Alchemist, is one of the leads of the Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA)series. Even so, he can carry the show all by himself. Earning many accolades during his time in the Ishval Civil War and as a state alchemist, Mustang is a remarkable and capable commander capable of becoming the next Führer of Amestris and the main protagonist.
Although on the surface Mustang seems selfish and narcissistic, his heart is in the right place. It’s thanks to his self-absorbed façade that he can push his subordinates further than they expected. But besides his power and intelligence, he has a sensitive side that comes to light when he learns of his dear friend’s, Maes Hughes, death. A loss that affects him greatly and speeds up his plans of becoming Führer.
Not to mention, Roy Mustang is an attractive, sophisticated, powerful man in the prime of his life. With his dark, piercing eyes and baby face, the Flame Alchemist deserves to take the lead of the FMA franchise. His time during the war as a “hero of a massacre” and idealistic plans for Amestris make for a compelling story.
Shoto Todoroki — My Hero Academia
Even with a cast full of bizarre superheroes, Shoto Todoroki is still one of the most unique characters on My Hero Academia. Despite not having many scenes in the first couple of episodes, his rivalry with Izuku Midoriya and unfriendly personality make him one of the most popular characters in the series, according to Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump. He even beat out the main leads, Izuku Midoriya and Katsuki Bakugo.
Todoroki is the son of the second strongest hero, Endeavor. His father’s obsession with All Might has led Endeavor to create offspring to surpass the world’s number one hero. His fixation with All Might took priority over his family, causing Todoroki to develop an aloof personality. Even so, Todoroki is still able to grow from it. He develops his own fighting style and ethics on heroism that put his father to shame.
Todoroki’s ability to overcome his issues makes him an incredibly sympathetic and likable character. Midoriya even mentions that Todoroki has all of the makings of a protagonist — unlike himself. Maybe there’s a spinoff series in the young hero’s future.
Kiyomasa Senji — Deadman Wonderland
Also known as Crow, Kiyomasa Senji was a police officer before landing in Deadman Wonderland. It’s thanks to Senji that the main character Ganta Igarashi lasted as long as he did in the amusement park prison. With Senji’s training and support, Ganta was able to use his Branch of Sin, making it possible for him to win and survive until the end.
Besides that, the battle-hardened veteran’s thirst for violence and cool catchphrase, “Dead Center” make him a suitable candidate to take the series’ lead role. Back during his police officer days, Senji used his ability to catch criminals, often crossing the line to capture his target. This made him a target to gangs, and, in the end, Senji lost colleagues, friends, and even his mentor, Domon. But Senji grows from these horrible experiences, becoming stronger and more determined.
But Senji isn’t just a serious badass character. When faced with danger, he shows how charismatic he is by making jokes. He also takes the time to help those weaker than himself, which is commendable. These laudable qualities, which Ganta lacks, make him the ideal choice for a lead role. (Plus, his toned body, messy hair, and eye-patch just scream main character.) Making Senji the lead would likely bring the Deadman Wonderland anime back to life.