Onyankopon Attack on Titan Feature Image Black Anime character
Onyankopon Attack on Titan Feature Image Black Anime character
Photo credit: screengrab via YouTube

The 13 Best Black Anime Characters

From Attack on Titan’s Onyankopon to Hunter x Hunter’s Canary, these are the 13 best Black anime characters.

It’s no secret that there are a lot of Black fans of Japanese anime. Between the Black-owned anime and gaming convention Dream Con, dozens of Black anime podcasts, hundreds of Black cosplayers who celebrate #28DaysOfBlackCosplay each year, the Black-owned animation studio D’ART Shtajio in Japan, and a growing number of Black creators in the anime industry who direct and voice act, it’d be hard not to know. Even celebrities like Michael B. Jordan, Megan Thee Stallion, and Lizzo have become known for their love of the medium. However, while Japanese anime has mostly Japanese characters, Black fans get to see themselves represented in anime as well. To be fair, as Japanese anime has been created over several decades, Black anime characters have  not always been created well. Some were created with stereotypes and harmful tropes; others with caricature-like features. And while the number of Black voice actors is growing in the industry, it’s still common to see a Black anime character voiced by a non-Black voice actor in an anime’s English dub version.

Despite these issues, there’s no denying how Black anime characters in varying forms — vigilantes, musicians, princesses, and even androids — have become beloved figures not just among Black anime fans but anime fans in general. So, in honor of some of these characters, we’re highlighting the best ones out there.

But before we do that, some ground rules. For this list, we looked at characters with afro-textured hair, whether or not their race/ethnicity was confirmed by the manga or anime creator, mentions of African ancestry, who voices them, and those with darker skin hues. (Although we note that not all Black characters have dark skin, and some non-Black characters do have dark skin. For example, Bleach’s Yoruichi Shihōin is often claimed as a Black character, but many fans have pointed out that she could also be South Asian, therefore she isn’t included here. Also, although we claim Piccolo as one of our own, he’s unfortunately not on here either. Sorry, our beloved Big Green.)

These are the 13 best Black anime characters.

13. Onyankopon

Onyankopon Attack on Titan Black anime character Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Attack on Titan

Voiced by: Zeno Robinson

With a crisp hairline, Onyankopon added a sense of cool to the Attack on Titan series. While the horror and action show is undeniably terrifying, Onyankopon’s presence brought some levity to the show as it nears its long-awaited conclusion. He also delivered one of the best lines when another character — who has never seen a Black person — asked him why his skin color is dark. “Why? Because our creator thought it would be more interesting if the world was occupied with all kinds of different people. We exist because we were wanted,” he said with a smooth smirk. While he can have questionable morals, how could you not appreciate him with an answer like that?

12. S.A.M.

Cannon Busters SAM Black anime character Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Cannon Busters

Voiced by: Kamali Minter

When LeSean Thomas, animation co-director for The Boondocks, announced that he was creating an anime series for Netflix, Black anime fans were hype. The series, titled Cannon Busters, doesn’t feature just one or two Black characters, but a slew of them, with one of the standouts being the blonde-haired android S.A.M. Standing for “Special Associate Model,” S.A.M. is sweet, naive, quick to laugh, and powerful as hell. As she sets on a journey to find her BFF (who happens to be an actual Black prince), she proves that kindheartedness doesn’t mean weakness.

11. Usopp

Usopp from One Piece Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: One Piece

Voiced by: Sonny Strait

One Piece is one of the most popular (and best) anime series of all time, and to have one of the main crew members be Black just adds to the greatness of the show. In volume 56 of the One Piece manga, series creator Eiichiro Oda shared what the nationalities of the crew would be if they lived on our map. For Usopp, Oda said he’d be African (unfortunately no country was provided).

Although Usopp had a tendency to be a fearful, habitual liar early in the show, he eventually grew to live up to his own tall tales as he became an expert sniper and key member of the Straw Hat pirates, despite not having super abilities. As the crew supports their captain in his journey to become the King of Pirates, Usopp proves to be an indispensable member of the team. Whether he’s going up against government regimes, ruthless pirates, or even zombies, Usopp continuously grows braver and braver — even if he’s still scared most times.

10. Killer Bee

Killer Bee from the Naruto anime Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Naruto Shippuden

Voiced by: Catero Colbert

With blonde cornrows, Killer Bee is quick to spit a hot bar (yes, he actually raps in the series) and quote Muhammad Ali, channeling the great boxer’s butterfly float and bee sting punches as a seven sword-wielding shinobi. On top of this, Killer Bee is also a Junchiriki (humans with a multi-tailed beast sealed inside of them) like the series’ namesake, Naruto. Despite being so powerful, Killer Bee often appears carefree and relaxed in stressful situations. He also has one of the best fights in the series.

9. Ogun Montgomery

Ogun Montgomery Fire Force Black anime character Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Fire Force

Voice actor: Zeno Robinson

Ogun Montgomery may not be the lead of Fire Force, but he definitely has “main character energy.” Named after the African deity, Ogun has the ability to ignite himself and can create spears made of fire, as fire outlines his body in a way that looks like tattoos. This especially comes in handy, considering Ogun is part of a group of firefighters who fight humans who spontaneously and mysteriously combust and turn into living infernos called “Infernals.”

8. Nessa

Nessa from Pokemon anime Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Pokémon

Voice actor: Anairis Quiñones

If you were around during the ‘90s, you know how big Pokémon was for millennials. As the franchise continues to be widely popular, Black Pokémon fans have seen a few Black characters pop up like Olivia, one of the Elite Four of the Pokémon League, in 2016’s Pokémon Sun and Moon game. But it’s newcomer Nessa that has become a fan favorite since being revealed in 2019’s Pokémon Sword and Shield game. Nessa is shown as competitive, fierce, and a hard worker who, on top of being a gym trainer, also works as a model. Fans got to see the skilled trainer, who specializes in water-type Pokémon, more in the anime series Pokémon: Twilight Wings, where she’s voiced by Anairis Quiñones.

7. Kilik Rung

Kilik Rung from Soul Eater Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Soul Eater

Voiced by: Joel McDonald

Kilik is one of the strongest characters in the 2008 series Soul Eater. As a top three student fighter at his school — the Death Weapon Meister Academy — the hot-blooded and passionate Kilik wields twin weapons dubbed Fire and Thunder. Series creator Atsushi Ohkubo (also the creator of Fire Force) reportedly designed Kilik after recognizing that few manga series have Black characters, and went as far as basing him off the main character in Kirikou and the Sorceress, a film that’s inspired by a Western African folktale.

6. Afro

Afro from Afro Samurai, a Black Anime character

Anime: Afro Samurai

Voiced by: Samuel L. Jackson

Voiced by none other than Samuel L. Jackson himself, Afro quickly became one of the most iconic Black characters among anime fans. Afro is the main character in the five-episode series Afro Samurai, which follows a samurai out for vengeance for the person who killed his father. As the second most powerful samurai in the land, Afro masterfully slices through enemies in search of his father’s killer, even having to battle with an android version of himself. Series creator Takashi Okazaki drew from his love of soul and hip-hop when creating Afro Samurai, so it’s not a surprise that Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA composed the hard-knocking soundtrack for the series — a perfect fit for the cold and cool Afro.

5. Nadia

Nadia from Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water Black Anime characters Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water

Voiced by: Wendee Lee (Streamline dub), Megan Bauman (ADV Films dub)

If you’re a Studio Ghibli fan and you don’t know about Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water, you should fix that immediately. Co-created by Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, the series stars Nadia, a teenage Black girl from Africa (country not specified in the series) trying to get back home. Throughout the show, Nadia proves to be brave, intelligent, and empathetic as she and her friend Jean fight against a violent, murderous group who are after world domination.

4. Atsuko Jackson

Atsuko Jackson from Michiko Hatchin Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Michiko & Hatchin

Voiced by: Sametria Ewunes

If Michiko from Michiko & Hatchin is fire, Atsuko Jackson is ice. While Michiko turns to a life of crime while living on the edge of danger (the very first episode of the series finds her breaking out of jail), Atsuko is a calculated policewoman-turned-outlaw-vigilante. Throughout the show, Atsuko is set on capturing Michiko. But despite her strong desire to bring Michiko in, she can’t help but have a soft spot for the woman on the run. With her iconic blonde afro, Atsuko joins a slew of great Black characters in Michiko & Hatchin. But her tenacity and complexity is what makes her such a standout from the rest of the pack.

3. Carole Stanley

Carole Stanley from Carole and Tuesday a Black anime character Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Carole & Tuesday

Voiced by: Jeannie Tirado (speaking voice), Nai Br.XX (singing voice)

Carole & Tuesday follows two musicians trying to make it big among the backdrop of a terraformed Mars (because, anime). As one half of the duo, Carole, an orphaned refugee from Earth, proves to be a talented songwriter who captures fans’ hearts with her rambunctious personality and angelic singing voice. As the fun series about two women trying to become successful turns into a commentary on wealth disparities and immigration (again, anime), Carole’s determination to do the right thing despite the setbacks she faces, is an integral part of Carole & Tuesday’s appeal.

2. Canary

Canary from Hunter x Hunter Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Hunter x Hunter

Voiced by: Mela Lee

One of the best representations of Black characters in a Japanese anime is Canary from Hunter x Hunter. With afro-textured hair, a sharp tuxedo, and deadly combat skills, Canary is one of the coolest characters in anime. While she’s only a teenager, she holds her own as a bodyguard for the Zoldycks, a family of ruthless assassins. But while she is quick to kill, she remains loyal to her friends. Rumor even has it that Rihanna may have cosplayed Canary in the 2015 promotional images for her "ANTI tour," as she donned a tuxedo and Canary’s signature hairstyle.

1. Michiko Malandro

Michiko Malandro Michiko hatchin Photo credit: screengrab, YouTube

Anime: Michiko & Hatchin

Voiced by: Monica Rial

As Michiko & Hatchin’s gun-toting, crass-talkin’, Afro-Brazilian badass, it shouldn't be a surprise Michiko Malandro tops this list. One of the main characters from the 2008 series, Michiko may have a tough exterior but she also has a heart of gold. As she travels through Brazil’s favelas to find her ex-boyfriend with his young daughter Hatchin, Michiko grows more and more caring for the little girl, a contrast from the reckless and selfish version of her that viewers are first introduced to. Michiko is a rarity in that you don’t often see Black female anime characters as leads. Also, fun fact: her design was based on Aaliyah, the beloved R&B singer.

Victoria Johnson is a writer, host, and podcaster with over 10 years of experience reporting on music, anime, comic books, and film/TV. Her byline can be found in several outlets including Complex, Teen Vogue, Vulture, Polygon, Mashable, and VIBE. Victoria currently hosts the Sailor Moon Fan Club podcast, a three-year-long running show where she interviews incredible Sailor Moon fans (previous guests include Saweetie, Baby Tate, and Sasha Banks). Victoria also regularly produces and moderates panels for conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic Con, C2E2, and Anime NYC.