10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Netflix’s recent anime series, Yasuke, is notable for featuring a Black character as a ninja in Japan of the 16th century. While the show deals with science-fiction and fantasy elements, the titular protagonist also deals with issues around race while carving an identity of his own.

Anime like Haikyu!!, Bleach, and My Hero Academia have featured notable Black supporting characters. Otherwise, Black characters are limited in conventional anime series and often involve stereotypical portrayals that did not age well. At the same time, a few modern classics feature notable Black protagonists, including the likes of Michiko & Hatchin, Afro-Samurai, and Neo Yokio.


10 Afro Samurai (2007)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Based on the manga of the same name, Afro Samurai amalgamates influences from samurai and hip-hop culture in a hyperviolent tale of revenge. The English dub gained popularity due to Samuel L Jackson voicing the lead character. Another selling point of the anime miniseries is the soundtrack, orchestrated by Wu-Tang Clan-alumnus RZA. Afro-Samurai went on to win an Emmy and spawned a film sequel.

The basic premise revolves around the warrior known as Afro. He grows up in a dystopian feudal-style Japan where he seeks revenge on an outlaw who killed his father for having the “Number 1” headband, a symbol of the greatest warrior of the world. What follows is a series of adrenaline-fueled duels with assassins and mercenaries.

9 Michiko & Hatchin (2008)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

The titular leads in Michiko & Hatchin both crave a sense of freedom in the fictitious country of Diamandra. While the former wishes to escape a prison fortress, the latter aims to ditch her abusive family. When their paths cross, the women embark on a road trip, only to get involved in a larger criminal conspiracy. The series drew praise for the heartwarming yet valiant nature of its characters, along with the visual aesthetics of Diamandra, which bears a striking resemblance to Brazil.

The 22-episode-anime marked the directorial debut of Sayo Yamamoto, who would later continue her anime career with Yuri!!! on Ice, and Lupin The Third.

8 Cannon Busters (2019)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Yasuke showrunner LeSean Thomas has had a reputation for headlining noteworthy animated series with Black characters, like Black Dynamite and The Boondocks. He also created the comic book series Cannon Busters, which debuted in 2005. Recently, in 2019, Cannon Busters inspired an anime of the same name that ran for 12 episodes.

A binge-able adventure anime, the Netflix original is set in the land of Gearbolt and follows the travels of a crew of misfit robots and fugitives. The team is led by Philly The Kid, an immortal outlaw whose ulterior motive is to avenge the death of his parents.

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7 Black Lagoon (2006)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

One of Madhouse’s best anime productions, Black Lagoon starts off with the abduction of Rokuro Okajima, a young businessman who’s left for dead by a gang of pirates. Disillusioned with his boring work life, Okajima renames himself Rock and sticks with a group of professional mercenaries called The Lagoon Company.

A major part of the team is Dutch, a former Marine who serves as the Company’s leader. Even though Dutch is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and firearm usage, he tends to have a calm and laidback personality, in general. He bears both brawn and brains, as he’s also an avid follower of philosophers like Hegel and Sartre.

6 Blade-Anime (2011)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Along with Iron-Man, Wolverine, and the X-Men, Marvel’s vampire-hunter, Blade, also received his limited anime series. Released as Bureido in Japan, the English dub’s protagonist was voiced by Harold Perrineau (of Lost and The Matrix fame). Other Marvel characters, like Noah van Helsing and Wolverine, also make guest appearances.

As has been the case with the Blade feature films, the anime also relied heavily on stylistic blood and gore. The plot revolves around Blade’s visit to Japan to track Deacon Frost, the vampire who killed his mother. At the same time, he also encounters the vampire organization known as The Essence.

5 Basquash! (2009)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Basquash is a fresh anime that derives its influences from previous mecha and sports-based anime series. It is set in Dash Earth, an alternate version of Earth in the future. On this planet, a social divide can be noticed between the inhabitants of the planet’s surface and a far more advanced lunar society. The latter engage in a sport called Big Foot Basketball aka BFB. This involves players donning colossal mecha suits to play basketball.

Eager to start his own version of BFB on the streets, Dan JD, the mechanic Miyuki Ayukawa and their peers lay the foundations of “Basquash.” In this process, they incite the envy of the lunar city of Mooneyes, leading to a power struggle around the game.

4 Yasuke (2021 – )

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Yasuke is the first samurai warrior of African descent. This real-life character and his bravery are evoked in the Netflix series of the same name, which adds tropes from the magic and mecha genres. In terms of storytelling and the central character arc, Yasuke also seems to rely heavily on samurai and Western cinema, with the warrior serving as the “hero with a troubled past” archetype. The premise mainly deals with him confronting his inner demons, while also protecting a girl possessing magical powers.

In the English dub, Oscar-nominated actor LaKeith Stanfield voiced Yasuke. Additionally, the series is also scored by Flying Lotus, who also produced the ambient opening track, Black Gold.

3 Carole & Tuesday (2019)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Even though Carole & Tuesday is set on a human-inhabited Mars, its premise isn’t heavy in sci-fi. Instead, it plays out as a feel-good musical anime, with the two protagonists endlessly pursuing their dreams of becoming musicians.

Carole Stanely is a refugee from Earth who relies on odd jobs to make ends meet. In her spare time, she masters her skills on the keyboard. This is how she joins forces with Tuesday Simmons, a guitarist who runs away from her privileged household to follow her creative pursuits. Given its musical nature, a talented ensemble of new-age musicians contributes to the soundtrack, including Thundercat and the aforementioned Flying Lotus.

2 Neo Yokio (0908603917)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

In this Netflix anime, created by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, Jaden Smith stars as protagonist Kaz Kaan, a “Magistocrat” who hunts down demons when he’s not engaging in his wealthy lifestyle. Kaan is an inhabitant of the titular city of Neo Yokio, a Utopian variant of New York that’s dominated by elite magicians who once saved the city from demon attacks in the 19th century. For this reason, Kaan and his kind are assigned an upper-class status.

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As the story progresses, strange paranormal phenomena take place. For instance, a Chanel suit is exorcized in the pilot episode! Humor aside, the series also offers an anti-capitalist critique, along with an emphasis on hikikomori, the Japanese lifestyle of social withdrawal.

1 Castlevania (0908603917)

10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Even though Castlevania‘s Isaac is introduced much later in the series, he starts playing a major role from the second season. As the video game adaptation’s three central characters defeat evil forces, Isaac builds his own army of the undead to punish humanity. Isaac is a devil forge master who is enslaved and tortured by humans until he finds solace in his service to Dracula.

Ever since the vampire died, Isaac turns into a character with several grey areas. His intentions seem evil, but in his path of avenging Dracula’s demise, Isaac ends up finding his own path, giving up his genocidal plans in this process.

NEXT: Castlevania: 10 Most Complex Characters, Ranked

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10 Best Anime With Black Protagonists

Shaurya Thapa (532 Articles Published)

Shaurya Thapa is an Indian freelance journalist who mostly dabbles in writings on cinema, music, and human interest features. When it comes to Screen Rant, he writes lists on a wide array of subjects ranging from international films to mainstream Netflix series and comic book trivia. He also hosts a podcast called ‘BhindiWire’, an Indian parody of IndieWire.

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