Anime has a reputation for brawlers. Shonen has done a good job of making the genre a home for over-muscled beefcakes who can punch through steel, defeat legions of aliens, and then return home to consume a buffet table’s worth of food. But anime as we know it doesn’t just revel in the Goku’s and the Jojo characters, oh no. It also understands that intelligence is a weapon, especially when wielded by the unnaturally smart.
Or by the unnaturally attractive
Fans love their genius characters. They not only make any combat far more interesting (spotting weaknesses and what not) but they also make less actiony plots more complex and interesting. In celebration of characters who put their big brains on the frontlines, these are my six favorite anime geniuses. As always, this is just my list, and they aren’t in any particular order this time.
Ami Mizuno – Sailor Moon
We start with something childish and sweet. Sailor Moon was the five-man-band for girls, and Ami was “The Smart One.” But she wasn’t just smart, she was a quick-fire genius and a great sleuth.
Sailor Moon, the grandmama of all magical girl anime, featured five girls who magically transformed into sailor-suited warriors of justice. Ami was the smart but shy Sailor Mercury, who’s powers focused on water and ice, and worked in a more defensive manner: bubbles that froze the enemy, a mist that created illusions, etc. When Ami wasn’t weakening enemies, she was using her mini-computer to find an enemy weak spot or passing tests at Juuban High School at the top of her class. With big plans to be a doctor, she sure has to hit the books… or her baddies, whichever comes first.
Radical Edward – Cowboy BeBop
For the rare specimens who never saw Cowboy Bebop, meet Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV – Ed for short. She’s a great example of a fangirl gone crazy awesome, and what happens when an obsessive genius won’t stop until she’s a part of the team.
Cowboy Bebop introduced fans to a plethora of amazing characters, though it mainly focused on the space bounty hunters Spike Spiegel, Jett Black, and Faye Valentine. Ed, the daughter of a cartographer, was a huge fan of the Bebop Crew and set her sights on joining after escaping her childhood orphanage.
She grew quite skilled in computer science and earned herself the hacker nickname Radical Ed. She’s a master at bypassing security, cracking passwords, and just about the only person on the ship who understands little Eine the dog. Is she crazy? Quite possibly, but count your blessings she’s a good guy.
Kurama/ Shuichi Minamino – Yu Yu Hakusho
Lots of people mistake Kurama as the pretty boy who isn’t a threat. Those people are wrong and probably dead.
Yu Yu Hakusho follows the exploits of Yusuke Urameshi, high school thug turned spirit detective. He meets Kurama on one of his “Cases”, and notices right away that he’s not like the demons he’d met thus far. The former fox demon was reborn into human form after his death in the spirit world and grew empathy for the human world as a result. Thus he became one of Yusuke’s comrades against threats to the Spirit World and believe me, you want Kurama on your side. His battle strategies are brilliant; his logic quite impressive, and his calm demeanor almost intimidating.
Lt. Colonel Roy Mustang – Fullmetal Alchemist
Alchemy is the magical science of equivalent exchange, breaking down and building back up with only the materials you have. No one understands this better than Edward Elric, who now must travel the world in search of the philosopher stone to undo a terrible mistake he made to his little brother, Al, and to himself. He has lots of people there to help, including the famed Flame Alchemist: Lt. Colonel Mustang.
Mustang is a high-ranking officer in the Amestrian army and a super powerful Alchemist. This soldier has dealt with fire of all types: be it flames at his fingertips or licking at his heels The enemies in this series, the homunculi and the ever enigmatic Father, constantly change things and work in increasingly underhanded ways of infiltrating the government and playing everyone like one giant chess game. But Mustang has not only survived their attempts to keep him pinned, but found several ways to ingeniously outmaneuver them and get what he wants. Mustang’s battle smarts and tactician skills make him absolutely brilliant and anyone who gets in his way will find themselves outgunned and outmatched.
L Lawliet & Light Yagami – Death Note
I’m cheating, I know. But picking between these two is almost impossible. The whole first half of the show is watching these two collide, after all, so they both deserve their due respect.
If you’ve managed to avoid the show up to this point, Death Note is the utterly amazing story about a boy getting a notebook from a God of Death, a notebook that can kill anyone if you have their name their face. Light decides to use it to kill international criminals and become the god of a new world. The show puts Light, arguably the villain, in the lead while L, the detective trying to catch him, becomes an antagonist. Light is the golden boy who thinks three steps ahead, coming up with genius strategies to hide his secret life and manipulating everyone around him. L, a pasty, scraggly, sunken-eyed insomniac, also seems to think three or even four steps ahead of everybody, and capable of genius logic chains that bring him to the right conclusions despite Light’s attempts at hiding.
Sure, characters like this cause sections of the plot to go over a few heads, but it also promises a story that’s as gripping as it is complex. Our anime Geniuses may not always be flashy in the physical department, but they know how to keep us spellbound and keep us guessing.