The success and enduring popularity of anime depend on how quickly its viewers latch onto its characters. Sometimes a show can be a tough sell when nobody onscreen is interesting or distinctive in any discernible way. Fortunately, anime also has a trend of unusual or vibrant hair colors that make characters pop, and while personalities can sometimes vary between characters of similar hair color, it’s worth noting when some of the best have that feature in common. Some of the best orange haired characters have appeared in iconic anime over the past few decades, and deserve a mention.
All Hail the Ginger Anime Royalty: Best Orange Haired Characters
It’s dishonest to claim that redheads don’t have a presence on screen, as evidenced by Rose in Titanic, Leeloo in The Fifth Element, and anything featuring Molly Ringwald. But as for anime, some of the most memorable characters sport this color, standing out from the ridiculous Yu-Gi-Oh! hairdos. Despite anime having predominantly brown or black hair for its characters, there are some standout orange haired characters worth mentioning:
10. Misty (Pokémon)
Misty is one of the first gym leaders encountered by Ash Ketchum, and also one of his first allies. She initially had a short temper but warmed up to the gang over time. She resented her sisters who often kept her in her shadow, but she was a proficient and iconic Water Pokémon trainer and is often among the first orange haired anime characters people recall.
9. Kazuma Kuwabara (Yu Yu Hakusho)
Name another iconic character who rocks an orange pompadour, we’ll wait. While Kuwabara’s design choices are strange, to say the least, he is easily distinguished from the rest of the main crew in Yu Yu Hakusho for his towering height and build, his spiritual senses, and his surprising kindness. Kuwabara can also summon swords out of spirit energy that can reach obscene power and damage-dealing potential.
8. Yuuki Asuna (Sword Art Online)
It speaks to a character when popularity polls can have multiple spots seized by different interactions of the same person. Asuna from Sword Art Online did so, becoming such a popular character that she received a spin-off series focused on her point of view. The won the hearts of fans just as much as she did with her partner, Kirito, and brought us an iconic female anime protagonist.
7. Misaki Yata (K)
He’s rude, has trouble talking to girls, and doesn’t like you talking about his height. But Yata, also known as Yatagarasu (a reference to the crow god) can pack a wallop, and it’s pretty badass and more than a little weird that his skateboard is his weapon of choice. His fighting style incorporates breakdancing, skateboard tricks, and martial arts. What more is needed to make an interesting, memorable character?
6. Orihime Inoue (Bleach)
Orihime is a fascinating Bleach character. She has incredible spirit energy, intense martial arts proficiency, and powerful spiritual senses in general. Her Shun Shun Rikka ability, containing 6 powerful spirits, is also highly noteworthy. Finally, she’s also the canonical wife later on to another iconic orange haired anime character to be named later.
5. Nami (One Piece)
For somebody who hates pirates, she sure does hang out with pirates a lot. Having lost someone Belle-mère to the Arlong pirates, she had every reason to, but much like many other Straw Hat crew and allies, Luffy won her over. She’s the crew’s navigator, and while she doesn’t have the comically high bounty some of the series’ greatest pirates have, she has solidified herself as one of Luffy’s most senior officers, and an icon in one of the biggest anime ever.
4. Ichigo Kurosaki
A true icon, this orange haired anime protagonist is among the most well-known of all time. He’s got a great story, a strange sense of honor in battle, and a lengthy story you can digest with a recent adaptation of the manga’s final arc. Ichigo is a proficient fighter, and deceptively intelligent while juggling Shinigami duties. You can follow his anime adventures now as episodes of Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War are available to stream.
3. Pain [Yahiko] (Naruto)
Pain is an interesting case because his original body does not have orange hair, but his friend and fellow orphan Yahiko’s body was used to present Nagato as the strong face of Akatsuki’s leadership. Nagato and Konan agreed that Yahiko was their spiritual leader, and the loss of Nagato’s mobility, this development was necessary. Pain’s Yahiko body, the Deva Path, was the most iconic of the bodies used in the Pain Arc, the best arc in Naruto Shippuden, with a distinctive design and pulse-pounding impact on Naruto’s development.
His fight with Naruto included one of the most harrowing moments in the series where Naruto, pushed to the end of his limits, nearly let his worst instincts take over. Stripped bare of his inhibitions and possessed entirely by rage, Naruto’s fight with Pain led to possibly his greatest personal developments: coping with the loss of his mentor, embracing his lineage, and becoming Konoha’s greatest hero.
2. Emma (The Promised Neverland)
A resilient red-headed orphan who isn’t named Annie? Check. While this is certainly far darker than your average hard-knock life, the story is an incredibly compelling one with Emma at the helm. The plucky 11-year-old is hardly unusual in how well it’s received: many Studio Ghibli movies, for example, are led by very young protagonists. But Emma’s genius intellect, deft athleticism, and combat prowess helped give her an edge against the demons that otherwise may have eaten her if she’d not discovered her orphanage’s dark secret.
1. Himura Kenshin (Rurouni Kenshin)
Rurouni Kenshin is one of the most iconic anime ever, and its central character is an orange haired samurai wandering as a Rurouni for the sake of atonement for his previous deeds. Kenshin was once known as Hitokiri (assassin) Battōsai, a hideously violent swordsman with a ruthless streak. His peaceful, goofy demeanor in the present belies his dark past, and while his inhibitions are released at times, he builds a sense of trust with those around him to know what he is capable of.
His signature weapon, the Sakabato has its blades reversed, the cutting edge being on the back, with the dull edge being on the front. This is emblematic of Kenshin’s desire never to kill again, a vow he struggles not to break throughout the series. Be sure to check out the readaptation that’s on the way for this iconic series.
Anime characters come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re also fascinating and easy to latch onto. Whether you’re a red-haired anime fan who appreciates the representation, or just a fan of some crazy characters who do some entertaining things in your favorite series, we hope this list gives some inspiration on what to check out next.
- This article was updated on January 18th, 2023