It's not only the main characters who bring life to anime series. And while anime villains tend to be more memorable than the heroes, it's not even the villains who bring the most life to anime.
Look at pretty much any modern anime series and you'll find that the side characters are the ones who round out the cast, fill out the gaps, bring color to scenes, and deepen the overall story in many ways.
And when a side character is done particularly well, they can win over the audience and become fan favorites in no time. How does a side character win the viewers over? Let's find out!
Here are my picks for the best anime side characters ever and why they successfully stand out from most other characters.
15. Buggy the Clown (One Piece)
Buggy the Clown gained fame in the series One Piece for his peculiar ability, as well as being one of the legendary members of the great pirate king Gol D. Roger's crew.
And judging by his jester-inspired looks, he lives up to his appearance as one of the most comical side characters in the anime series.
While Buggy was a villain in the first season of One Piece, his backstory got revealed over time and showed that he was a funny guy even when he was young.
Later, during the Paramount War at Marineford, he unexpectedly helped Luffy—and even became a human shield for him against the great sword of Mihawk. His reaction then is still his best.
14. Maki Zenin (Jujutsu Kaisen)
Due to her inability to see curses, Maki Zenin decided to leave the Zenin Clan—but promised to come back to be the next head of the Clan. All of this starts one of the best characters in Jujutsu Kaisen.
She wants to prove her worth, so she hones her skills with her physical strength, quick thinking, and reflexes. She then obtains an eyeglass that's specialized to see curses.
During one fight with a special grade cursed spirit, Maki shows incredible fighting skills and manages to drive that cursed spirit into a corner with the help of a fellow student.
This kind of drive and proactivity is what makes Maki one of the best side characters in all of anime.
13. Bishamon (Noragami)
Bishamon was actually the antagonist in the first season of Noragami, but becomes a side character later on.
She's one of the Seven Gods of Fortune and a master in using her Regalias. There was a time when most of her Regalias were killed due to corrupted thoughts, and that filled her heart with hatred.
Now she's one of the most powerful Gods on par with Yato, the renowned God of Calamity who defeated plenty of enemies single-handedly. And when she ends up fighting Yato, she nearly defeats him.
Between her beauty, her backstory, and her stormy-but-not-quite-hostile relationship with Yato, Bishamon is one of the best.
12. Boa Hancock (One Piece)
The only female warlord in One Piece, Boa Hancock is an empress who possesses both beauty and strength. She's the captain of the Kuja Pirates, an all-women pirate crew, and she has the power of the devil fruit Mero Mero no Mi, which turns humans into stone.
During the Paramount War, in order to support Luffy in rescuing his brother Ace, Hancock cleared his path and indiscriminately hits both marine soldiers and pirates along the way.
11. Tatsumaki (One Punch Man)
An S-class Rank 2 professional hero of the Hero Association, Tatsumaki (also known as "Tornado") uses psychic abilities to fight against monsters that invade her city in One-Punch Man.
During the large-scale invasion of monsters on Earth, Tatsumaki has limited screen time yet still shows her power by defeating monsters that can't even be killed by a group of S-class and B-class heroes.
She may be stubborn, but her strength is something that keeps her one of the best heroes in the series—and not just that, but one of the most powerful women in any anime series.
10. Giyu Tomioka (Demon Slayer)
Giyu Tomioka is one of the Hashira of the Demon Slayer Corps. He was trained by the former Hashira (Sakonji Urokodaki) on how to use water-breathing techniques, and his swordsmanship is so impressive that he even made up his own form.
In order to save his fellow Demon Slayer (Tanjiro Kamado) and his sister (Nezuko Kamado) who was on the verge of death, Giyu ended up killing one of the Twelve Demon Moons.
Even though he's often labeled as a loner and a person who no one likes—especially by his fellow Hashira, Shinobu Kocho—the truth is that he's beloved by pretty much all fans of Demon Slayer.
9. Guren Ichinose (Seraph of the End)
A man who's full of mystery, Guren Ichinose is the head of Ichinose Family and the leader of Guren Squad. He possesses a cursed sword in which he sealed his beloved Mahiru when she turned into a demon.
Aside from his fighting skills, Guren is also a scientist and a clever strategist. During the vampire attack that left humans cornered, Guren saved the day with his ace-in-the-sleeve: turning one of his squad members into a one-winged being.
8. Might Guy (Naruto)
Might Guy is one of the high-level ninjas of Konoha Village, being a master of Taijutsu who can also use the Summoning Technique. He was the leader of Team Guy, a squad that specialized in hand-to-hand combat, and life-long rival of fan favorite Kakashi.
He demonstrated his strength many times throughout the series, but proved himself to be one of the strongest ninjas in the world when he went up against the invincible Madara one-on-one.
But Might Guy isn't beloved by fans for his fighting prowess. It's the fact that he's so optimistic, whimsical, and without care for what anyone else thinks of him. He'll always work hard and do the right thing, even if it means sacrificing himself.
7. Kenpachi Zaraki (Bleach)
The most badass captain of Soul Society, Kenpachi Zaraki is always seeking a stronger opponent to fight and test his skills against. But if there's one thing that makes him such a fearsome opponent, it's that he's seemingly immune to feeling pain.
Despite being a brutal fighter, Kenpachi actually taught Ichigo about his own sword and helped him grow into a more formidable fighter.
Between that, the fact that he's never outright evil in his motives, the fact that he's so strong without even owning a Zanpakuto (Soul Reaper sword), and his overwhelming confidence in himself? It's no wonder why so many fans love him.
6. Chika Fujiwara (Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War)
She's bubbly and fun, she's cute and lovable, she's quite talented. Chika Fujiwara has many features that make her an interesting side character, even if they're masked by her innocent face and childish antics.
While Kaguya is the main female lead of Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War, Chika Fujiwara steals the limelight on multiple occasions—and some might even say she's the most popular girl in the series.
Furthermore, she makes the "love war" more fun and entertaining for us as she ramps up the tension between the characters.
5. Eijiro Kirishima (My Hero Academia)
While Shoto Todoroki has one of the most compelling backstories and developments in My Hero Academia, Eijiro Kirishima is still the best of all the supporting characters in this anime series.
Early on, Eijiro only exists in the background while the Big Three—Todoroki, Bakugo, Midoriya—get all the narrative attention. But as the series progresses, his character is explored in greater depth, hinting at his motivations and showing his developments.
Eijiro seems to be good at being friends with others, as shown when he becomes close to the hot-headed Bakugo and his supposed rival Tetsutetsu, and that makes him extra special.
4. Satoru Gojo (Jujutsu Kaisen)
This laid-back teacher of the main trio in Jujutsu Kaisen always steals the show whenever he's on screen. Between his goofy behavior and overpowered abilities, Satoru Gojo definitely earns that spotlight.
Despite being the most powerful character in the series, Satoru doesn't have a menacing aura or intimidating appearance. He isn't overly imposing or threatening, which is unusual.
In fact, Satoru is the perfect blend of "badass" and "good guy," and he's made even better by his comedic potential.
3. Levi Ackerman (Attack on Titan)
Levi Ackerman was one of the most fleshed-out characters in Attack on Titan, despite not being one of the main characters. Indeed, we saw how terrifying he was as an enemy and how caring he was as an ally.
He's one of the Scout Regiment's best fighters and most experienced titan killers. He's able to kill dozens of titans in a single battle, and he was even able to pull Zeke out from the Beast Titan on his own.
Despite his tiny stature compared to most recruits, nobody dares to mock Levi's height. While he isn't hostile, he did grow up on the dark side of society and developed a cold and emotionless attitude.
Unfortunately, the latter arcs of Attack on Titan put Levi on the sidelines and made him somewhat useless after he was blown up and wrapped in bandages with some appendages missing.
2. Osamu Dazai (Bungo Stray Dogs)
Osamu Dazai is admittedly a sketchy character. Not only does he want to die, but he also wants to do it with a woman.
However, when it comes to the Armed Detective Agency, Osamu Dazai is one of the most reliable agents. Apart from his ability to nullify other abilities, he has top-notch deduction skills.
What makes him one of the best anime side characters is that he doesn't rely solely on his Gift. He's resourceful and he makes full use of his capabilities and interpersonal connections.
Whenever he's needed, he always arrives prepared—even if he doesn't appear so—and he's always ready to set the stage.
1. Itachi Uchiha (Naruto Shippuden)
Itachi Uchiha started off as a villain in the early parts of Naruto Shippuden. His cold yet calm demeanor, wrapped in mystery, made him one of the most compelling and badass members of Akatsuki.
As the story went on, we learned about his tragic past and the hard decisions he had to make. He endured all those years in the dark alone, which made us feel sympathy towards him.
But it wasn't only his dark past and noble intentions that made us love him. Itachi was also one of the most powerful in the Naruto world—so much so that he became an ANBU captain at the age of 13 and he was able to protect Konoha from the shadows.
Between his complex backstory, his love for Sasuke, his incredible jutsus, and his lifting of the Reanimation Technique during the Fourth Shinobi World War, Itachi is the best anime side character of all time.