Character development is often a crucial and fundamental point in making an anime interesting.
It makes us feel part of the events, watching one or more characters gives a feeling of time flowing, adding depth to the narrated events.
And conversely, if a cast of characters remains the same in characterization, we inevitably end up with a feeling of boredom and flatness.
But that is exactly what we want to avoid by grouping for you the anime that include the best evolutions for the characters that you must watch.
This list is based on our personal tastes and experience and is spoiler-free.
Table of Contents
A slice-of-life in which a young city boy must come to terms with his new life on a rural island while learning the art of calligraphy.
The premise might mislead and not seem particularly brilliant, but a cast of outstanding characters immediately surrounds the protagonist, making them impossible to forget.
Experiencing life through Handa‘s eyes and watching him grapple with his growth is consistently interesting.
In the course of his daily adventures, the protagonist searches for his calligraphic style, which eventually becomes self-discovery.
Barakamon is a story of personal growth, improvement, and hard work to achieve one’s goals. Handa is also an extremely well-written character, and you will surely become attached to him as you watch him change.
22. The Ancient Magus Bride
A series with a fantasy setting in which the young protagonist, after a terrible childhood, is betrothed to an ambiguous wizard.
In the course of the story, we discover the two protagonists, who slowly unravel to us. A bittersweet tale that leads us to constantly feel different emotions, bonding us to the characters.
The Ancient Magus Bride is a multifaceted story that relies on the intimism of the characters and the realism, contaminated by the fantastic, of rural England.
But it is precisely their personal and increasingly intimate relationship that is the strength of this great anime.
Both will have great development relying on each other, and watching them grow together will be a treat for the eyes.
The entirety of Parasite revolves around the development of its protagonist. Partially possessed by an alien parasite, Schinichi Izumi faces a process of change forced upon him by the host that controls his right hand.
Despite an incipit that is not too original, the strength of Parasyte lies precisely in his development during the course of the story.
The difficulties he faces lead him to constantly question himself, oscillating between the lights and shadows of the human psyche.
On the technical side, we have a lot of action, badass moments, and excellent animation and soundtrack, all combined with a simple but highly effective plot.
You can’t miss it for any reason, also for its excellent animations and an envy-inducing soundtrack.
Psycho-Pass is story with a dystopian slant that questions the psychic potential of the human soul.
This series starts from the premise that we can determine people’s abilities and inclinations simply by scanning them, then determining their lives.
It is a journey of self and other-realization, in which we see the granitic certainties of the protagonists constantly crumbling, changing and evolving.
Shinya Kogami and Akane Tsunemori, 2 inspectors of the Criminal Division, will investigate on a case that will modify their perspective.
A series that embraces all the nuances between good and bad, carrying it forward in brilliant manners and always supported by beautifully written characters.
This is what makes this series a must if you like crime and psychological-centered series that will leave you with a lot of philosophical questions.
19. Ping Pong – The Animation
Ping Pong – The Animation bursts with style from every single frame and brings in some of the most intimate characters ever created.
In this sports anime, ping pong is the pretext for telling the story of adolescence. The aspirations, insecurities, and frailties of kids who want to achieve the impossible or simply want to live peacefully.
Tsukimono (Smile) and Hoshino (Peko) show two different interpretations of the transition to adult life, and the cast revolving around them is constantly deepened and explored.
And don’t be fooled by the spokon theme of the series. The ping-pong matches are merely a tool for getting into the psyche of the characters and evolving them further.
18. Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter is considered by many to be the best shonen ever, due to the engaging story and interesting characters.
Gon Freecs, the main protagonist, is backed by some of the most interesting characters ever seen, even outside of Japanese animation. Everyone has unique backgrounds and motivations, that will be explored during the course of the series.
The development of the protagonist is the icing on the cake, and watching his growth will surely make you indelibly attached to him.
Hunter x Hunter is truly a legendary work that everyone should watch for several reasons including the exceptional world-building it offers, breathtaking fights and a power system to be envied.
17. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
One of the best shonen ever written, authored by Hiromu Arakawa in 2001. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is the animated series that most faithfully deals with the plot narrated in the original work.
The story of the Elric brothers offers a solid and interesting plot, full of mysteries and never dull. The cutting edge of this steampunk-tinged fantasy lies in its characters, starting with the lead duo, down to the last of the sidekicks.
Each character is essential to the story and each has a growth, a development that leads them to question themselves and the world around them.
The evolution of the main characters alone is worth watching in this extraordinary work of art.
This is one of the most complete and best anime in general, with a good story, compelling characters, and enviable action scenes completed by some serious psychological moments.
If you have not watched it yet, this totally is your call to do so, It’s absolutely an experience worth the watch.
16. Serial Experiments Lain
Series Experiments Lain has 13 episodes and is an original story dating back to 1998. It’s one of the most famous short original works due to its fairly deep meaning and plot complexity.
One of the reasons it should be watched is its uniqueness, which makes it so difficult to explain and at the same time so appealing, especially because of its main character, Lain Iwakura.
It is a journey of discovery not only of Wired, a kind of Internet conglomerate that connects our world but especially of Lain.
This journey will lead her to discover herself, realizing that she was not, nor has she ever been who she thought she was.
Serial Experiments Lain is truly an experience, creating his own formula, message and style, still distinct from all the other anime even to this day.
15. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Puella Magi Madoka Magica overturns its genre’s own styles to create a dark and mature story through deep and layered characters, starting from the main protagonist Madoka Kaname.
For anyone familiar with the Majokko genre, it will be a breath of fresh air, and for others a great place to start.
The strength of this series is its darker plot and thematics, which are reflected in the wonderful characters and the path they take throughout the story.
A story in which the protagonists often find themselves in conflict, though united, and which brings unique and clever narrative twists to the genre.
And the merits don’t stop here, because this anime can also count on an incredible and super solid technical aspect.
14. Mawaru Penguindrum
Mawaru Penguidrum is a series with absurd features in which each character is discovered little by little.
The great thing about this atypical and touching story is that the characters are introduced without too much explanation.
In the early moments, the weirdness of the plot, which revolves around the bizarre concept of a penguin-shaped hat that can bestow immortality, may not appeal.
Yet thanks to the extraordinary writing and development of the main characters, one of the most bittersweet stories of the past two decades is revealed.
Getting to know the characters leads to strong empathy, making them impossible to forget. This anime can rely on one of the most beautiful and well-written stories about the familiar love and loss of a loved person theme.
13. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan has become an instant classic because of its character development and the rawness of the narrative.
Humanity is besieged by giant heartless humanoid creatures and undertakes a desperate defense for its preservation.
The characters’ strength and growth consistently impress, keeping you glued to the screen. Each character will have its own impact on the story, and no one will be left behind.
But this is especially true for the protagonist Eren, whom we will watch in each season changing and adapting more and more to the harsh apocalyptic reality of the anime.
12. Fruit Basket
One of the most famous Shojo series of all time, Fruit Basket presents a set of characters that fall outside the stereotypes of the genre, starting from the protagonist Tohru Honda.
There is a fantasy twist in what might otherwise be a slice-of-life work, and it may seem bizarre to see characters transform into the animals of the Chinese zodiac, but in this series it all makes sense.
It relies a lot on the pace with which it handles each character and brings us to know them, without being afraid to show even their bleakest and bitterest stories.
But the real strengths of this anime are its incredible romance featuring a solid love triangle and the incredible evolution of the protagonists when they face difficult situations.
Katanagatari is a masterful work by Nisio Issin about samurai and swords, telling the story of a swordsman and a strategian to retrieve the most powerful 12 swords in Japan during the Edo period.
The character that immediately takes the spotlight in the story is the protagonist Shichika Yasuri, having a charming personality and a dark and tragic past.
The sidekicks and antagonists are also beautifully written, so much so that it will become difficult to side with a single character. Each cast member has an incredibly interesting story and a difficult past to tell.
If you are looking for a series that relies heavily on character development and incredible action scenes, you cannot pass up this animation gem.
In fact, Katanagatari is without any doubt one of the best action anime out there.
10. March Comes In Like a Lion
In this series, the theme of depression is explored through the eyes of a teenage protagonist.
The young shogi player protagonist faces the monster of loneliness and tries to escape the spiral of depression thanks to the people around him.
A tale of constant descent into the depths of depression and the flashes of happiness that constantly bring the protagonist back up, preventing him from sinking.
March Comes In Like a Lion is a touching and intimate story that doesn’t exploit the audience with cheap tricks, and engages them with the crude reality of things.
The evolution of the protagonist is the true focus of this anime, and watching him grow, open up to the world and become the best version of himself makes this series a must-watch.
9. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
This series incorporating fantasy-politics, dark magic, and mecha has created one of the most charismatic protagonists ever written.
Lelouche Vi Britannia is a young rebel with hatred for the kingdom that destroyed his homeland. During the first episode of the series, he gains a terrible power that can enable him to gain redemption for his people.
It’s a long chess game that keeps the audience in suspense, making its protagonist move in a way that is not always understandable and appreciable but always leaves curiosity about his goals.
The evolution of the main character culminates in an unexpected and clever ending that confirms his exceptional writing.
Code Geass is an anime that nevertheless deserves to be watched.
It has a deep psychological aspect and tactical approach to warfare that is unlike to find in other anime.
Berserk is not only one of the best and deepest dark fantasy anime ever created but has some of the best characters ever written.
Initially, it may seem to have some somewhat immobile and axe-cut archetypes in front of it, but episode after episode the depth and facet of the characters involved will be glaringly obvious.
For anyone who wants a compelling story in which good and evil are not stark, but as nuanced as the cast of characters.
Few other works can match this one due to the complexity of Gatsu and Griffith, two characters that border perfection.
They start as allies but end up becoming arch-nemesis. We are talking about one of the most important duos in anime history and their contrast is one of the main themes of Berserk.
7. Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga is a series with a Norse setting that explores the theme of revenge. It is a fast-paced story that plays on some classic genre stereotypes but integrates them with more adult and harsh elements.
The protagonist Thorfinn begins his journey in a classic way, but before long a darker, more wrathful, and violent side of him is created.
His obsession with revenge will become the linchpin of this story, creating a troubled bond with the audience.
Vinland Saga is an anime that relies entirely on the psychology and growth of its characters in a setting where war and its aftermath take center stage.
6. Mobile Suit Gundam (Franchise)
Mobile Suit Gundam is one of the most famous franchises that redefined the mecha genre. It consists of several dozen series, OAVs, and manga to make up its mosaic, creating one of the widest and deepest universes ever created.
Its strength lies as much in the clashes between robots as in its protagonists, always under the constant theme of war, the soldiers fighting it, and its terrible consequences.
They are not absolute heroes that are always in the right, but human beings with their own set of traumas and ambitions, involved in the horrors of the war.
For example, in the first series, 0079, we see how the main character, Amuro Ray, goes from being a shy and unassuming teenager to a skilled and confident pilot.
And the same development is true for many protagonists or leads like Kamille Bidan, who changed their behavior after tasting the battlefield.
5. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden is the story of a former living weapon who now finds herself listening to and relaying the stories of others in letter form.
Each episode shows a different story while telling the war-torn world in which the series takes place and delving deeper into its protagonist.
It is a touching tale, a journey into the souls of the characters that grows deeper, darker, and bitter, but it immediately wins you over with the strength of its writing.
You’ll desire to know more and more about Violet and her story as you watch her grow, gain emotions and become the normal person she always desired to be.
4. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
It’s hard to find an anime with better character development than Gurren Lagann, one of the most famous mecha anime of the last 20 years.
The protagonists grow along with the world around them, which is a constant mirror of their evolution, as well as that of the human species. All important aspects merge well with the over-the-top and spectacular action sequences.
If you love mecha, epic fights, and are looking for charismatic characters, you can’t miss this series.
Gurren Lagann also incorporates a lot of homages to various series of the genre that makes it one of the most unique anime you can experience.
3. Steins; Gate
The character development in this series is extremely well done. It’s difficult to explain what Steins; Gate is, and you must watch it to understand the exceptional writing behind this masterpiece.
Essentially, it’s another story concerning time travel. But a beautifully written, intricate, and workable story.
The main reason to watch this anime is to get to know the main characters, understand their motivations, understand their feelings, and come to empathize deeply with them.
Okabe Rintaro is an excellent protagonist and his crazy scientist vibe will make you fall in love with him.
Truly an unfailing work of art for those who appreciate well-written characters and stories that will remain marked in your mind.
2. Cowboy Bebop
It’s hard to find a single reason to watch Cowboy Bebop, but the characters are its crowning glory, starting from the protagonists Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, Ed and Jet Black.
Each episode allows us to better understand each of the protagonists, who can be considered unique and alive thanks to their development.
We will explore the traumas, skeletons in the closet, and personalities of each crew member, soon making us realize that regardless of appearances they are all essential for the plot.
The setting which ranges from Sci-Fi to western is incredibly fascinating and proves to be the perfect backdrop for getting to know one of the best casts in anime history.
This anime literally has everything. Action, comedy, psychological, deep, and badass moments and as well one of the best soundtracks ever.
1. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion takes the trope of the mecha genre and twists it upside down, completely retaking it. The main character Shinji is not always easy to like, but he’s still incredibly human and relatable.
Over the course of the story, Shinji and the other sidekicks go through a real journey of formation. A bloody, harsh, and at times painful journey, but one that allows the protagonists to develop as three-dimensional characters.
Although the plot seems action-centric at the beginning, all the focus is on the characters and their psychology, as well as their traumas and personal experience.
The message of Evangelion resonates near the second half of the original anime, as the situation starts to get grim.
We will watch each character evolve by bringing out their true personality, and this is especially true for the main character Shinji.
His conclusion and evolution, though complicated and in need of understanding, are considered among the best ever written, if not the best.