Never underestimate the power of an animal mascot to take an anime from great to legendary. The inclusion of a lovable animal character can work wonders for popularity.
It might seem like a simple thing, but not only do these characters move merchandise—like toys and plushies—they can also bring some much-needed levity to a show fraught with tension and conflict.
Whether they're badass heroes, cute support characters, or just there for comic relief, anime wouldn't be the same without these furry friends.
Here are our picks for the best anime animal characters of all time and why each one is so lovable and popular.
21. Sadaharu (Gintama)
Sadaharu is a massive dog with fluffy white fur who's basically the mascot of the Yorozuya. He's obviously not a normal dog, but you wouldn't expect him to be a dog god who was turned into a pet.
After being abandoned by his previous owners, Sadaharu was left at the doorstep of Gintoki's apartment. Even though Sadaharu frequently bit Gintoki at first, they grew closer over time and he learned to stop—although he still lovingly chomps on his friend's head.
20. Hawk (Seven Deadly Sins)
Despite being a pig, this animal sidekick in Seven Deadly Sins is named Hawk. While he has his occasional cute moments, he's mostly known for "cleaning up" the customers' scraps at the tavern.
Hawk found Meliodas when he was astrewn in a ditch many years ago, and ever since then they've developed into an inseparable pair. They'll banter and argue over unimportant things, but when circumstances are serious, Hawk is fiercely loyal and an important ally.
Although Hawk is far from the toughest pig around, he makes for a great source of comic relief throughout the series.
19. Bond (Spy X Family)
Bond is a relative newcomer to the anime scene, with Spy X Family only recently making its debut in 2022. However, he quickly became a fan favorite character in the beloved comedy series.
Bond is a big, protective dog with the power to see the future. That makes him the perfect companion to Anya, who can tap into that power by reading his mind with her telepathic abilities.
He's certainly not much of a fighter, but that doesn't stop him from doing his part to protect his adopted family. The scenes between Bond and Anya are easily among the best in the series, and that makes him one of the best animal characters in anime today.
18. Jiji (Kiki's Delivery Service)
There's something heartbreaking about Jiji's story in Kiki's Delivery Service by Studio Ghibli.
He starts out being what every kid wants: a talking pet. He's Kiki's loyal familiar and friend who provides witty banter and companionship in equal measure.
However, when Kiki loses her powers halfway through the movie, Jiji loses the ability to speak and becomes a normal cat. And even though Kiki eventually recovers her magic, she can't restore his speech.
Jiji goes on to live a normal life as a normal cat and he seems happy for it, but we're stuck with the burden of knowing that he lost a special friendship along the way.
17. Mocchi (Monster Rancher)
Mocchi is the cute yet bulky monster companion to Genki and the group in Monster Rancher as they journey on in search of the Phoenix. He was introduced right in the first episode of the series.
But hidden in his seemingly squishy body is an able fighter, who we see defeat many opponents throughout the series. Among his arsenal are his Mocchi Cannon and his strong, hard head used for headbutts.
16. Kirara (Inuyasha)
Sango is easily one of the coolest characters in Inuyasha, but she wouldn't get anywhere without her loyal cat Kirara.
Kirara is the two-tailed yokai companion of Sango and Inuyasha's group. Most of the time, Kirara is tiny, cute, and innocent—but the moment trouble rears its ugly head, she can transform into a huge flying form that gives her pyrokinesis and flight abilities.
This shift into battle mode is one of the most visually interesting parts of the show and is something we never get tired of seeing.
While Kirara doesn't get much in the way of character development beyond her relationship with Sango, we don't mind because she already gives us everything we could want in an anime animal character!
15. Akamaru (Naruto)
There are few consistencies in Naruto, but one thing that never changes is the bond between Kiba and his ninja dog Akamaru.
Akamaru is part of the Inuzuka Clan, whose members all have their own personal ninja dogs. When the pair are first introduced, they're already inseparable with Akamaru keen to help his boy in any way he can.
Early in the series, Akamaru starts as a cute little puppy learning how to fight alongside Kiba. After the time skip in Naruto Shippuden, we see a fully grown Akamaru who's so big that Kiba can ride him into battle, which is something we never get tired of seeing.
Akamaru is fiercely loyal and never afraid to throw down when the mission calls for it, and that's why we love him so much.
14. Kuro-Chan (Cyborg Kuro-Chan)
Kuro is an ordinary house cat who becomes the subject of an experiment, which turns him into a cyborg cat that was supposed to be used to conquer the world.
With his new steel body and unlimited strength, he can shoot machine guns and enter a deadly hyper mode. To hide his steel body, Kuro wears a black-and-white cat costume that's similar to how he used to be.
He saves not only his elderly owners but also the community, though he isn't that fond or enthusiastic about doing so.
13. Veldora (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime)
We're talking about Veldora's original form, not his human form (which was based on the source material he indulged himself in while inside Rimuru). The Storm Dragon Veldora is a mighty dragon, sealed away by a human in the past, who then met a mere slime that changed his fate.
Being inside Rimuru is a win-win situation for both of them. He's one of the reasons why Rimuru is so strong and able to become a Demon Lord, while also being able to free himself from the seal with the help of the slime's Raphael ability.
12. Charizard (Pokemon)
Back when Pokemon first aired, no one anticipated that Ash's cute and lovable Charmander would evolve into the stubborn Charizard. He grew huge and strong, and Ash always had a hard time telling him what to do once he was out of his Pokeball.
Despite being hardheaded, this fire-type Pokemon is a great companion as he manages to defeat most of their opponents.
11. Chimera Ants (Hunter X Hunter)
The Chimera Ants in the Hunter X Hunter series were born from a single Queen who came from the Dark Continent. She further evolved the race in her nest by eating humans and giving birth to Ants with human-like features and human-like intelligence.
Their evolution went further as Nen was introduced to their race, resulting in monstrous and terrifying magical beasts, like the Royal Guards and the Ant King Meruem.
The Chimera Ants are known to obey hierarchy, so they all view the Queen as their supreme ruler. But upon her death, the other Ants started to wander far from the nest, each wanting to start their own nest and be the Queen themselves.
10. Happy (Fairy Tail)
Happy falls firmly into the category of mascot and comic relief, lacking most of the combat abilities that define the characters of Fairy Tail.
However, what Happy lacks in strength, he makes up for by being incredibly cute, joyful, and fiercely loyal to his friends. It's hard to imagine the story of Fairy Tail playing out without Happy there to bring a bit of light into the room.
This talking, flying cat has known Natsu since he was born and views the young wizard as his family, but he also has a distinctly mischievous streak that results in some of the best moments in the show.
One particularly great episode involves the main cast switching bodies, allowing Happy to view the world as a human—and the power immediately goes to his head. It's a really fun watch!
9. Sea Kings (One Piece)
For this one, we're not talking about the Sea Kings in One Piece that are common to the surface of the seas. Rather, we're talking specifically about the ones who answered Shirahoshi's (Poseidon) cry.
These Sea Kings were huge and known to be part of the ancient weapon that would pull the giant ship, Noah, to the surface.
They can also talk with certain individuals, which we saw when Roger heard them beneath the sea and when Luffy was destroying the ship that was about to fall.
8. Bunny (Blood-C)
Real-life bunnies may be cute, but the Bunny Beasts in Blood-C are best at being monsters. With their morphing abilities, they can turn their arms and hands into skewers (for a human barbeque) or even bags (in which they place their victims).
Another thing that makes these beasts so formidable, aside from being terrifying, is that they can multiply and regenerate. They can't be stopped unless the original is killed.
7. Cerberus (Cardcaptor Sakura)
Cerberus (or Kerberus) is one of the guardians of the Clow Cards and was ordered to look for the new master of the Cards.
In his true form, he resembles a lion with a breastplate, helmet, and huge wings. But in his false form, he looks like a cute stuffed toy, befitting the nickname "Kero-chan."
As the guardian who resembles the sun, he has control over fire and has jurisdiction over nearly half of the cards that are under his element. He guided Sakura throughout her card collection adventures up until she turned the Clow Cards into her own Sakura Cards.
6. Gamabunta (Naruto)
Gamabunta is a giant toad from Mt. Myoboku and was the first one Naruto summoned during his training with the Summoning Technique. Even Jiraiya hid after he saw that Naruto summoned Gambunta—because he knew about this big guy's grumpy attitude.
Though reluctant at first, Gamabunta eventually accepts the fact that Naruto managed to summon him. He's still a grumpy old toad who's as likely to take his anger out on his companions as he is on the enemy, but he does end up helping out more often than not.
And whenever Gamabunta does show up, he's always undeniably cool. With a giant sword in hand, there aren't many problems he can't solve.
5. Pikachu (Pokemon)
Almost everyone loves Ash's Pikachu. When the anime series first came out, everyone who watched wanted a personal Pikachu of their own to be their companion.
Pikachu is an electric-type Pokemon with a yellow body, long ears, red circles on his cheeks, and a lightning bolt tail. He's the evolved form of Pichu, and can later evolve into Raichu.
Unlike Ash's other Pokemon, Pikachu is always seen riding his back or walking by his side instead of residing in a Pokeball. He's irresistably cute whenever he chirps his iconic "Pika, Pika!"
4. Atsushi Nakajima/Beast Beneath the Moonlight (Bungo Stray Dogs)
Atsushi Nakajima, though Gifted, is just a normal human... at least, until his Gift fully takes over. "Beast Beneath the Moonlight" is Atsushi's Gift that allows him to turn himself—or just a certain part of his body—into a mythical white tiger.
The full transformation of the Gift resembles a huge white tiger, known to have incredible regenerative ability, raw power, and speed (which Atsushi manages to control later on in the story).
At first, he can't control his ability and goes on chaotic rampages whenever he fully transforms into his White Tiger form. But with the "All Men Are Equal" ability of President Fukuzawa of the Armed Detective Agency, Atsushi manages to control his destructive Gift.
3. Kurama (Naruto)
Kurama is the Nine-Tailed Beast that's sealed inside Naruto. Known in the early parts of the story for his pure hatred, he leaks a tremendous amount of chakra to Naruto.
This allows the boy to become insanely strong with huge chakra reserves, but Kurama's influence of hatred makes Naruto unable to control himself, giving him the dark-red chakra cloak.
Later on, Kurama grows more complex when he's given more character development. We've followed his story (along with Naruto) from being a monster of destruction to an ally of the Shinobi Force, and we even shed tears with his farewell in Boruto: Naruto Next Generations.
2. Ein (Cowboy Bebop)
He can't say a word, but Ein is one of the most intelligent characters in the Cowboy Bebop cast. That's partly because he's a scientifically engineered data dog, but also because the rest of the Bebop crew all share a single brain cell for most of the show.
Ein is intelligent enough to know that these outcasts and weirdos are good people, though, and he understands that they just need a bit of guidance in the right direction.
Unlike many other intelligent animals on this list, Ein seems perfectly content to just be a dog. He jumps, wiggles, and plods around without a care in the world. Despite his awareness of his intelligence, he's at his happiest when he's being doted on by the human characters.
It's clear that Ein is living his best life and we respect him for it.
1. Luna (Sailor Moon)
Without Luna, Sailor Moon would be lost. She appears to be nothing more than a regular cat, but Luna is much more than that. She's a guide and mentor who helps Usagi grow into the hero she needs to be.
With the perfect mix of sassy attitude, wise counsel, and bossy rebukes that you might expect from a talking cat, Luna is certainly one of the best animal companions in anime history.
What makes her so much fun is how she's treated as an equal by Usagi and the other Sailor Guardians. In a group full of teenagers, Luna is one of the most level-headed and serious characters in the show.
Without her guidance, Sailor Moon and the other girls would never have been able to save their world over and over again.