Who doesn't love a great redemption story? In the realm of anime, redemption stories are common and—when done well—elevate and add complexity to their narratives about broken or wicked people.
Indeed, there's no feeling in anime like watching a beloved villain turn a new leaf and start heading down a new path toward redemption. We love to watch characters who start off bad, realize the errors of their ways, and make up for it by the conclusion.
And the funny thing is, we often end up liking these characters more than we like the protagonist! That speaks volumes of the value of redemption.
Some redemption plots come quick while others take many episodes to develop and earn. Regardless of how long the redemptions take, here are my picks for the best anime redemption arcs of all time.
12. Franky Goes From Robber to Friend (One Piece)
Franky had lofty seafaring dreams before he got involved with the Water Seven. After that, he had no amity left.
He had been injured so frequently that his body had to be augmented with cyborg parts. Despite that, he kept his thirst for adventure afloat and eventually found the Straw Hat Pirates.
Franky's time with Luffy and his crew didn't start off well, given that the former had his men rob Usopp. However, Franky came to good terms with Nico Robin and softened up with the pirates, thanks to his protective instincts. After the Enies Lobby Arc, Franky even joined the crew!
11. Char During the Zeta Arc (Mobile Suit Gundam)
Char Aznable has been bound to his father's title and legacy. Thus, he has no regard for morality and has no remorse in honoring the Principality of Zeon and avenging his father over all the Zabi.
His cruelty amounted to heavy damage, including the loss of his conscience and his closest companion. Yet, he found a redemptive moment during the Zeta Arc.
When Char crosses paths with Amuro Ray, they duel—and as he feels the pain, Char realizes he went too far in seeking vengeance and backs out of the fight. That realization, while fleeting, restores Char.
10. Reiko Tamura Loves Her Son (Parasyte: The Maxim)
The shock of the alien invasion horror anime Parasyte: The Maxim is represented by Reiko Tamura, a Parasite who possessed one of Shinichi's high school teachers and took on a new identity while aligning with Takeshi Hirokawa.
While not as vile as other Parasites, she's still dangerous. In taking over Ryōko Tamiya's body, the Parasite kills her parents. She also intends to slaughter Shinichi and Migi, but ends up sparing the two.
Her truest moment of redemption comes when she gives birth to a human child and does everything to protect the baby, even at the cost of her life. In a flash, she showed true love.
9. Isabella Loves the Kids (The Promised Neverland)
The Promised Neverland is about a group of orphans who uncover a horrible truth behind their identities and their orphanage, then plot to escape the clutches of their caretaker. That caretaker is their Mom Isabella, who succeeds in taking care of her children—but her care is all fraught.
The children notice that Isabella's care grows more deceptive and cruel, especially as they learn more about the orphanage's secrets.
Eventually, they gain the upper hand, and Isabella surprisingly (and gradually) takes this well. In the children's excursion, their Mom ultimately offers them assistance and wins back their trust.
8. Erwin's Valor (Attack on Titan)
Half of the third season of Attack on Titan involves Commander Erwin Smith leading the Scout Regiment to retake Wall Maria and the Shiganshina District. While Eren Yeager struggles to reclaim his torn homeland, Erwin had an even tougher run.
As the Commander, Erwin held steadfast to his stern and persistent code in best supporting his fellow soldiers. However, that boldness drove Erwin to madness, costing the lives of his men.
During a brutal faceoff against the Warrior Titans, he overcomes his injuries and sacrifices himself to allow Levi to kill the Beast Titan.
7. Itachi and the Uchiha Clan (Naruto)
The Uchiha clan are one of the most feared in Naruto lore, especially when the name basically becomes synonymous with Sasuke's notorious older brother, Itachi Uchiha.
He's the one responsible for assassinating every last one of the Uchiha clan—sparing only Sasuke—and becoming deeply involved with Akatsuki. That association with Akatsuki is what turned him into Sasuke's most intimate and dangerous enemy.
Itachi carried out missions and attacks against other ninjas, but he soon came face-to-face against Sasuke in a perilous battle. Though he was defeated, Itachi reveals to Sasuke the truth behind their clan and his motives, which redeemed Itachi and make him more sympathetic.
6. Piccolo Saves During the Raditz Saga (Dragon Ball Z)
The Namekian Piccolo has one of the most compelling arcs in the Dragon Ball saga. While he's a reincarnation of the ruthless King Piccolo and shares his malevolence, he carries a more empathetic nature that makes him a worthy companion and ally to Goku.
But before that, they started as rivals. When they first met during the World Martial Arts Tournament, Piccolo nearly kills Goku—but upon seeing his determination, he respects him.
And during the Raditz Saga, Piccolo joins forces with Goku to defeat his merciless brother and save Gohan. Eventually, the iconic Namekian became a mentor to Gohan.
5. Endeavor Agency Arc (My Hero Academia)
Enji Todoroki (known as the Flame Hero, Endeavor) was always second to his great rival All Might. He possesses pyrokinetic abilities that fit his harsh, impulsive, and neglectful personality.
But that personality of his heavily affected his relationships with his wife and his children, as his fixation on beating All Might drove him to become someone feared by students and other heroes.
Over the course of My Hero Academia, Endeavor realizes the gravity of All Might's responsibilities and his own ignorance, bringing him to an understanding of his mistakes and a desire to reconcile with his family. In the end, he becomes the hero All Might was.
4. Guts Shows His Conviction (Berserk)
Guts is a sword-wielding mercenary whose fiercest demons and tragedies had him go through monstrous lengths to vanquish his enemies.
While his exploits made him feared by many, he showed an empathetic side that helped him throughout. For example, in the Conviction Arc, he deals with protecting his marked companion Casca.
With his small crew, Guts guides Casca to a town ruled by a corrupt religion. Casca suddenly disappears, leading Guts to rescue her from treacherous Apostle-like demons. Along the way, the swordsman forges a bond with her, exposing a sliver of humanity in the stone-cold mercenary.
3. Speedwagon in Phantom Blood (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure)
Before his time with the Joestar family, Robert E.O. Speedwagon started his exploits as an Ogre Street thug.
He took the streets of London to be his domain, at least until he crossed paths with Jonathan Joestar and discovered his dedication to his ailing father. Speedwagon soon became Jonathan's strong friend.
The transformation of Speedwagon from street thug to Joestar ally is a strong one, especially since Speedwagon soon becomes close-knitted with Jonathan and sets up his own organization to aid the family.
2. Shoya Gives Up for Shoko (A Silent Voice)
A Silent Voice is a heart-wrenching look at bullying and its complexities, for both the bully and the bullied.
But more than that, it's a story of redemption for Shoya Ishida, a sixth grader who picks on a deaf girl named Shoko. Shoya's bullying escalates until it ends with the two getting into a physical alteration.
With how the anime portrays the subtle nature of bullying, it hits hard when we get to see Shoko's backstory and Shoya's demons. Eventually, the latter has to face his mistakes and make amends with Shoko, and that results in a heartbreaking journey for both of them.
1. Vegeta Becomes Vegeta During the Majin Buu Saga (Dragon Ball Z)
The Majin Buu Saga of Dragon Ball Z is what led to Vegeta becoming an all-time favorite of the saga. In this chapter, Vegeta is placed under the influence of Majin Buu after a rough battle with him, and his pride drives him to seek greater power levels so he can defeat Goku.
However, the Prince of All Saiyans reflects on the betrayal he inflicted to his family and his friends, leading him to use his power level to overcome Buu. It's the sacrifice that defines Vegeta to this day: despite his arrogance, he chose the entirety of humanity over himself. He's truly a hero.