Often in anime, it isn’t physical power that wins the day, but instead it’s brain power. Brawn isn’t always everything and it’s proven time and again as anime characters outsmart their nemesis. Some of these brainiacs are smarter than the others; they are geniuses of some kind of another and they’ve had a tremendous effect on the industry. These brainy characters can find a way around in situation, always having an enormous amount of knowledge on hand in their enormous brains as well as being able to adjust quickly to new situations and adapt to new surroundings quickly. Some may just be great at problem-solving, but for whatever reason, these smarty pants are either very appreciated or very hated by others, depending on rather they’re cast as a ”good” guy or a ”bad” guy. Either way, you have to admit, these are the 20 smartest anime characters of all-time.
1. Light Yagami
Light Yagami is the protagonist character of the manga series Death Note. Light is hardworking and talented and he’s good at solving problems and mapping out scenarios and he plans rather skillfully. He is popular among his peers and his family loves him. However, because of the constant praise given him by adults combined with his high intelligence lays the foundation for his arrogance once obtaining the notebook.
Light, who is a young and talented yet bored, finds a supernatural notebook. The notebook, which is called Death Note, allows its owner to kill anyone as long as the owner knows their name and face. Once Light becomes the notebook’s owner, which was previously dropped by Shinigami Ryuk, he becomes known as Kira, a serial killer who is attempting to create a utopia where he rules and there are no criminals left, just him, acting as God, and those who are worthy.
2. L Lawliet
L Lawliet is another character from the manga series Death Note. This eccentric genius is reputed to be the world’s greatest international private detective and takes cases which other national governments have failed to solve. He stands opposite the series’ main protagonist Light Yagami, trying to prove that Light is indeed Kira the mass murderer, albeit the murders he’s commits are criminals. Kira is trying to cleanse the world of evil by doing so. However, L Lawliet is basically Light’s archenemy.
Although L is quite secretive, he communicates through his assistant, never showing his face to the world and only representing himself as L. Once he meets with the Japanese Task Force, he asks to be referred to as Ryuzaki for keeping his identity intact. L is extremely intelligent and has great deduction powers, ultimately second-guessing everything. In addition, he is analytical and meticulous, not only will to take drastic measures in order to solve a case, but also is ready to deceive his opponents. Furthermore, he has a dry sense of humor and often uses sarcasm as well as being condescending at times.
3. Lelouch Lamperouge
Lelouch vi Britannia, who is the protagonist of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, began using the alias Lelouch Lamperouge after he was exiled. He is an ex-prince of Britannia who is given the Geass power by a witch. By using the Geass along with his genius intellect, he becomes the resistant movement’s leader. The movement is known as The Black Knights and he leads them under his alter ego Zero. Their goal is to destroy the Britannian Empire which is an imperial monarchy under the control of his father and which is conquering various other countries.
Lelouch is very intelligent and due to his aristocratic upbringing, is also arrogant, sophisticated, and calm. In school he was easygoing, likeable, and even sociable, but when it comes to being Zero, that’s when his true self is expressed. He is very cold and tactical during battle, but has the charisma which gains him the respect and trust of many of his soldiers and leaders. However, he is more than willing to sacrifice those soldiers as well as civilians in order to achieve his objective.
4. Shikamaru Nara
Shikamaru Nara is a character in the Naruto manga/anime series. He is a ninja who is also a member of Team 10, a group on ninjas. Shikamaru is depicted as a lazy person, not willing to apply in generous intelligence. He has an easygoing nature and his rare intellect actually allows him to prevail consistently in combat situations. Although the responsibilities that these successful combat situations have caused him to frequently be annoyed, he still gladly accepts new situations in order to help the fellow members of Team 10. In addition, he also wants to prove himself to past and future generations as well.
Skikamaru self-describes himself as a coward, yet he is dedicated to his friends and has a strong moral compass. He is a naturally lay person who is inclined to do as little as possible, even as an Academy student. He’d rather spend his time playing games or watching the clouds go by. However, whenever he is faced with a conflict or potential commitment, he first tries to find a way out of it, but ends up taking care of it in the end.
5. Itachi Uchiha
Itachi Uchiha is also a character in the Naruto manga/anime series. Itachi, who is the oldest brother to Sasuke Uchiha, is culpable for killing all the people of their clan, having mercy on only his younger brother. Throughout much of the series, Itachi is looked upon as an antagonist, but later it is revealed that he acted in order to avoid a war, killling the members of his clan and preventing a coup which would have resulted in such. In fact, he had been performing for both Sasuke’s and Konoha’s sakes for the series entirety. His character is one of the most popular with readers and critics alike.
Itachi was always insightful and quiet, even from a young age. Mature for his age, he showed considerable knowledge on dealing with any situation. He wasn’t arrogant or overly self-aware of his abilities. Furthermore, although he was by nature a pacifist, he felt the greater good was more important to his own needs, therefore becoming a shinobi.
6. Kakashi Hatake
Kakashi Hatake is another character in the Naruto manga/ anime series. Kakashi, Team 7’s teacher, is originally characterized as an apathetic and detached figure. However, with the progression of the series, it becomes progressively apparent that he is loyalty to both friends and students. One of Konoha’s most accomplished ninjas, he is also known as Kakashi of the Sharingan. He is often looked to for both leadership and advice even though he personally dislikes having responsibility. As a teacher, he likes to focus on how important teamwork is.
After losing his mother as a child, Kakashi was both independent and self-confident and at times even seemed to be condescending and arrogant. However, he was very intuitive and perceptive, able to recognize a situation for what it was immediately. After losing his father as well, he became more cold, aloof, and stern. He followed all rules exactly, expected that of his students as well.
Nate River, who is solely known as Near, is a character in Death Note, a manga series. As L’s youngest of two successors, he is raised in an orphanage for gifted children. After the death of L, Near starts looking into the Kira case and for four years he gathers evidence. He then takes all the evidence to the US President, revealing himself as L’s true successor. Soon after he is made head of Special Provision for Kira, SPK, continuing his hunt for Kira. Once Near makes contact with Light Yagami, “L”, he believes him to also be Kira.
Near is extremely smart, but his childish ways and looks cause others to not have faith in his abilities. He solves complex problems obsessively and the investigation is just another complex problem to him, waiting to be solved. He has intense observational skills and is a proficient multi-tasker. In addition, he appears to be ambidextrous as well.
8. Levi Hackerman
Referred to as Captain Levi formally, Levi Ackerman is the squad captain of the Special Operations Squad. He is universally known as the strongest human soldier. Levi is one of only two known surviving members of the Ackerman family which lives within the Walls. The Ackermans were a bloodline of warriors close to the crown until suffering severe persecution from the monarchy, leaving them almost extinct. Levi is a clean freak who rarely shows emotion. He isn’t approachable as he gives a cold impression. He is blunt and often inappropriate, sometimes even insulting. He has been known to belittle and provoke those who get on his nerves. He also has a dark sense of humor many find unsettling. However, Levi feels empathy and has a strong sense of morality. In fact, one of his more defining attributes is the high value he places on the preservation of life and he cares remarkably about the welfare of his subordinates.
As the main female protagonist of No Game No Life, Shiro is the calculating yet calm half of the siblings. She was deserted by her parents when she was only eleven, at which time she is considered a genius. Although her and Sora are only step-siblings due to her father remarrying, Shiro cannot bare to be separated from her brother even for a few seconds. Shiro has a genius intellect, seemingly almost supernatural with inconceivable simulation abilities and scientific calculation. Like her step-brother, she has eidetic memory, allowing her to learn and later recall vast amounts of knowledge not just quickly but also accurately. She is a Chess master, having beat a program written specifically to beat a grandmaster. In addition, she speaks eighteen languages, learning the language of Imanity in only fifteen minutes.
10. Conan Edogawa
The name Shinichi Kudo uses in his shrunken form is Conan Edogawa. After being exposed to poison, Shinichi took on the appearance of his much younger self at about seven years of age while biologically remaining seventeen years old. The poison was forced upon him by two men in black who were later revealed to be members of a secret dark order. The result of the poison was to de-age Shinichi’s body, basically putting his seventeen year old brain inside a seven year old body. Conan wants to hunt down the Black Organization and have them pay for their crimes, along with hopefully procuring an anecdote to the poison. Shinichi and Conan are frequently treated as independent characters from one another by fans, with Conan generally considered the primary character and Shinichi considered a supporting or recurring character. Either way, he has become very popular in The Detectives series as well as in other anime and media.
11. Edward Elric
Otherwise known as the Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward Elric is the protagonist of the series by the same name. After losing two limbs in a failed Human Transmutation (HT) endeavor, Edward became the youngest certified State Alchemist. A few years later, he became completely enamored in the search for the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary item which Edward believes can restore his brother’s body. His younger brother Alphonse lost his body during the same HT attempt.
Edward exhibits a childish personality, being both stubborn and petty. He’s often strong-willed as well as quick-tempered, allowing himself to be overly vindictive. Nonetheless, those who he cares about in some way get a undying loyalty from him marked by great compassion and selflessness. In addition, one of Edward’s most defining traits is his feelings of guilt. He blames himself for both his and his brother’s bodily states.
12. Kisuke Urahara
Kisuke Urahara is manga/anime character from the series Bleach. He’s an ex-captain who not only founding an entire division, but managed to become its first president as well. Living in the Human World after being exiled, Kisuke owns a small store selling Shinigami items where he is assisted by several employess. Though generally easy-going, high-spirited, eccentric, and happy but humble, Kisuke has a decisively cunning and strong serious side when it’s a situation calls for it. He frequently distracts his opponents using empty words and faked concern. Kisuke is also polite when speaking, despite his air of not caring. However, he does tend to be sarcastic at times. He is self-described as handsome and merely an honest albeit perverted businessman.
The main male protagonist of No Game No Life is Sora; he is the devious and calculative half of the siblings. Sora, who was also left by his parents, is another brilliant intellect. He and his half-sister are both gamers. After going through a tough childhood, Sora has an indifferent hate towards life, only being committed to gaming. Sora’s father married Shiro’s mother, making them step siblings Sora is also a young genius, but is a shut-in who is also confident, outgoing, with seemingly endless energy. He’s not afraid of playing anyone face to face, even if the other person is a known cheater. Sora tends to be exceptionally manipulative as well, but all of his characteristics complement his sister’s calculative and logical demeanor. As with Shiro, Sora also cannot abide being separated from his sister. As soon as there is so much as a closed door between the two, Sora quickly becomes a coward, only returning to his former self when she returns.
14. Armin Arlert
Armin Arlert is a power holder of the Titans as well as being a Survey Corps’ elite soldier. His friends, Eren Yeager and Mikasa Ackerman, were known to him in childhood as well. Armin is considered to be a secondary protagonist. Although he appears to be the weakest soldier, it’s his strategic genius and extreme intelligence which makes him such a valuable asset. So much so, that after one specific battle, he was given the power of Colossus Titan to hold. Armin is both selfless and loyal and he is in constant fear for the his friends’ safety. He is always ready to put himself in dangerous scenarios in order to save them and has even offered sacrificing himself before. He thinks deeply about how to solve problems and situations and in addition is extremely intelligent, has great judgement, has a level head, is able to plan ahead easily, and is very creative and an excellent tactician. Armin has an infinity for the future of humanity and constantly strives for ways to better mankind. Despite all these great qualities, however, he believes morality is relative. Because of this, he is willing to make morally questionable decisions which may shock some of those around him, but not his childhood friends who know him best.
15. Sebastian Michaelis
Sebastian Michaelis is the dedicated demon butler, specifically to Ciel Phantomhive, but also to his household. He has a strong sense of duty for both his master and his household and he faithfully carries out orders. In addition, he also ensures the smooth running of the household. He doesn’t sleep and therefore often takes care of his master’s tasks at night. Sebastian seemingly appears to be an impeccable and courteous servant. Nonetheless, he actually is quite heartless, callous, and sadistic. He is, after all, a demon. He ruthlessly attacks others on orders from Ciel. Additionally, he constantly is putting his master in danger, albeit non-dangerous, for his own amusement. Sebastian’s diabolical nature comes out in his sarcastic and dark humor as well as his inability to acknowledge, or even see, good in anyone. Weirdly enough, however, he has a profound adoration of cats.
16. Minato Namikaze
Minato Namikaze is an anime/manga character in Naruto. He was famous for having lightning-fast speed, which let to his being called the Yellow Flash. Unfortunately, he died during an attack, but he sacrificed himself in order to seal a part of the attackers in his newborn son. Minato was a very astute. In fact, he had the highest testing and intelligence scores in history of the Academy. Even when he was a young boy, he could pick up on details others may have missed, noticing a trail a kidnap victim had left which ultimately led to the kidnappers. He could see a combat technique only once before being able to break it down analytically, determining its strengths and weaknesses. His observational skills were incredible enough for him to have the ability to use a limited amount of evidence to deduce what an opponent’s plan may be. Once he analyzed a situation, deducing the best route of attack, he’d waste no time, but attack immediately and precisely.
17. Sosuke Aizen
Sosuke Aizen is the main antagonist for the manga series Bleach for most of the first half. He is first introduced as the 5th Division’s captain, which he later betrays and therefore, makes him the antagonist until he gets defeated. Upon defeat, he was first sealed away and then imprisoned for his many crimes. Aizen is extremely intelligent, often soft-spoken and polite, choosing to address his subordinates by their actual names. He’s not one to show signs of distress or alarm. Because of his advanced intellect and analytical mind, he’s often got the situation already completely planned out well ahead of time. When he is confronted, however, he acts uncaring and casual, and tries to enlist small talk to deter the conversation. Nonetheless, these acts are all just masks for covering up his true self which is extremely dangerous and manipulative. He will stop at nothing to get what he wants, which includes murder if he deems it absolutely necessary.
18. Madara Uchiha
Madara Uchiha is an anime/manga character in Naruto and was known to be a legend as leader of the Uchihas. He had the intentions to begin a new era of peace. However, he and his rival couldn’t agree on exactly how to go about achieving that peace. This lead to fighting for control of the village, which ended in Madara’s death. Nonetheless, Madara rewrote his death, and instead hid in order to work on plans to return. He was unable to complete his plans before dying, so he passed them on to other before he died for good. Nevertheless, Madara was actually revived years later, only to be defeated again before dying for the last time. Madara was a strategic master, honing his skills on the battlefield for many years. He devised plans quickly and could change them just as quickly as ongoing events unfolded. The longer amount of time he fought against the same opponent, the quicker he could predict what they would do, exploiting their weaknesses. He was able to adapt to any scenario and was knowledgeable on a large number of subjects, abilities, and people as well, allowing him to identify specific techniques best suited to his needs at the time.
Orochimaru is another Naruto universe character and one of the Sannin, who are legendary. Orochimaru wants to become immortal, cheating death and gaining power, so that he can learn all the secrets in the world. While trying to obtain this immortality, Orochimaru gets caught using his village and its inhabitants in order to perform unethical experiments. Orochimaru eventually does figure out a way to ”live” forever by using host bodies; this became his driving force once he discovered this. Orochimaru has an enormous store of information. His charisma allows him to manipulate people doing what he wants, with promises of power for their loyalty. When fighting, he can recognize an opponent’s fighting and respond accordingly immediately. He’s conducted many experiments and research in order to recreate abilities, allowing him to also have them. Throughout these experiments, Orochimaru became thoroughly knowledgeable about human genetics. He also has a vast range of knowledge on a variety of other subjects as well.
Kurapika is the last survivor of the Kurta Clan. He is a member of several elite organizations as well as leader of one of them. His goal is to one day avenge the Kurta clan and recover however many pairs of Scarlet Eyes that are remaining. Kurapika is very intelligent and he possesses immense knowledge. He’s more of an introvert, but also very judgmental. He keeps his distance from others because it keeps him moralistic and level-headed, but also because he’s had his heart has been broken, twisted with sadness and hatred. He lost someone at a very early age, so now closes his heart from new people in order to not face that kind of pain again. One of his most defining characteristics is that fact that he is willing to compromise his morality in order to capture the thieves who killed his family. He has uncontrollable anger when it comes to any kind of insult against his former clan, perceived or not.