Anime is known for its wide variety of powerful characters, ranging from those who can control the elements to those who can defeat anyone with a single punch to those who can collide entire planets.
But these badass figures weren't always so badass. In fact, some of the most iconic and most memorable characters of power were those who started off as nobodies, without much strength or notoriety at all.
The most common of these tropes is the character who lives in a world of magic but can't do magic himself. Other explorations involve characters who are weak and useless because they don't believe in themselves, but become stronger as they grow more confidence in their abilities.
Here are our picks for the most powerful anime characters who were weak and useless at first, then grew into power over time.
10. Rock Lee (Naruto)
Looking at Rock Lee's backstory, it's hard not to include him on this list. He's a ninja of the Hidden Leaf Village who can't use any Ninjutsu or Genjutsu; he can only do Taijutsu, which are basically martial arts without any chakra.
In the world of Naruto, anyone who can't control their own chakra is pretty much ousted from being a ninja. It's only through Rock Lee's sheer determination and the special training he receives under Might Guy that he's able to be a ninja—and even surpass many of his peers.
Despite being Taijutsu-only, Rock Lee can stand his ground against the toughest Ninjutsu users, especially when he opens his Inner Gates. Who can forget the scene where he removes his leg weights so he can fight unhindered? Few moments in anime are so legendary.
9. Asta (Black Clover)
Asta is a shining example of a no-magic character in a world full of magic. Despite being magicless, he trained very hard in the hopes that he'll one day be a Magic Knight... and maybe even the Magic Emperor.
Sadly, Asta failed to receive a grimoire during the Grimoire Acceptance Ceremony, and his journey seemed to be at an end—until a five-leaf clover grimoire mysteriously appeared and granted him anti-magic swords.
He didn't let his training go to waste and instead channeled all of his abilities into the power of his swords, which ironically made him quite formidable.
8. Tony Tony Chopper
Chopper is doctor to the Straw Hat Pirates. At first, he's cute, fluffy, and looks harmless despite his combat-ready abilities. It isn't until later on in the story that he reveals the monster within him—a grisly form that causes him to grow gigantic and uncontrollable.
It's the kind of ability he should never use, as the loss of self-control is a tall price to pay for tremendous power.
7. Ippo Makunouchi (Hajime no Ippo)
Ippo Makunouchi is a professional boxer who's the champion of the Featherweight Division. Like many athletes, he started as a trainee with little-to-no knowledge about the sport.
Way back before he started training, he was just a little boy who was always bullied. You'd think he trained hard to get revenge on them, but he maintained his humility and instead reserved his monstrous powers for within the four corners of the boxing ring.
6. Shinichi Izumi (Parasyte: The Maxim)
Shinichi Izumi's normal life was taken from him the moment an alien parasite infected his right arm. The silver lining is that it only infected his arm instead of his brain, which is the usual case for these alien parasites.
Aside from now having a talking hand named Migi, he also gained superhuman reflexes and strength, which he now uses to fight against and fend off parasite-infected human beings that feed on human flesh.
5. Atsushi Nakajima (Bungo Stray Dogs)
Technically, Atsushi Nakajima isn't entirely weak and useless at the very start of Bungo Stray Dogs. He simply isn't aware of the "power" that resides within him. And once it's out? It's dangerous.
After he joins the Armed Detective Agency, Atsushi is able to use and control his Gift: the Beast Beneath the Moonlight.
This ability allows him to become a White Tiger—or limit it to certain parts, like arms and legs—and have enhanced physical strength, speed, and reflexes. He also gets superhuman regenerative abilities.
4. Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul)
Ken Kaneki is the badass One-Eyed Ghoul of Tokyo Ghoul. He isn't like other Ghouls, as he has multiple forms of kagune (due to cannibalism).
But before he turned into the monster he becomes, Ken was just an innocent teenager who loves to read books. This harmless boy became a Ghoul on one unfortunate night when he was implanted with Rize's kakuhou.
3. Izuku Midoriya (My Hero Academia)
Izuku Midoriya's story in My Hero Academia is very similar to Asta's story in Black Clover: in a world full of superhumans who have unique abilities called Quirks, Izuku has nothing. Yet, he aspires to be a hero anyway.
After witnessing his determination, the world-famous superhero All Might passed his own Quirk (called One For All) on to Izuku. Equipped this Quirk, Izuku gained the ability to throw destructive punches at the cost of damaging his own body every time he does so.
Later on, Izuku grows even more powerful when he learns to control his Quirk and develops his own move called Full Cowling, plus he's able to use the Quirks of all the former wielders of One For All!
2. Eren Yaeger (Attack on Titan)
At first, Eren Yaeger is an unskilled military recruit who wants to hunt down every last Titan that terrorizes the last remnants of humanity. And why wouldn't he? He saw a Titan devour his mother with his own eyes.
What he doesn't know is that his body hides the power of a Titan Shifter within, which doesn't come into play until he has a near-death encounter that triggers his first "miraculous" transformation.
As a rookie, he was clumsy and a joke, often ending up tangled in his gear and being beaten in hand-to-hand combat. Now, he's one of the strongest being in the world, complete with the powers of the Attack Titan, Warhammer Titan, and Founding Titan.
1. Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach)
Ichigo Kurosaki is a student who's always been able to see ghosts and spirits, but one day he encounters a full-blown Hollow and is helpless against it. In steps Rukia Kuchiki, who passes some of her power to him.
At that point, Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper—and not just any Soul Reaper, but eventually one of the strongest in all of Soul Society. As we watch him grow and tame his Zanpakuto, then develop his Shikai and Bankai, plus his Masked form and Hollow form, we're left in awe.