Like with most of my lists the term “top” here is not to be taken too seriously. In this case, it actually means top characters with a sword I either find attractive or I remember seeing in really cool fights. I actually know of anime swordsmen who are much more popular and arguably more impressive but this is my list. So you get the ones I like.
Generally speaking, and this might just be me, I think sword fight animations are more impressive to look at than gunfights. There are some pretty intense gun battle anime scenes but there’s something just so comfortingly…anime, about seeing characters zipping around the screen, katana in hand.
There’s an elegance to it. An almost ballet-like quality. And they often look really good for some reason. So here are 5 I like!
Peko Pekoyama from Danganronpa
Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight. It seems no matter how well armed you are when you enter the…uhm… vacation resort… (Danganronpa are weird games) it’s really no guarantee that you’ll make it out alive.
I have always had a soft spot for Peko. That’s not saying that much since most Danganronpa characters become my favourite sooner or later. My grasp on the concept of favourite leaves something to be desired. But still, the pretty stoic girl with the silver hair and deadly sword captured my attention early on.
When it came to light that she was actually a big softy and a bit of a dork, hopelessly devoted to a childhood friend she holds dear, well then, she captured my heart!
Fukuzawa Yukichi from Bungo Stray Dogs
Ok so maybe I like to find excuses to post pictures of Fukuzawa. Or in this case one of my favourite Gifs. I use to create Gifs all the time. Maybe I should start again.
Half the characters in BSD don’t actually need any weapons to be deadly and the other half can materialize them out of thin air. Under such circumstances, a lone swordsman clutching a vintage katana seems kind of quaint. Like some outdated relic that stands no chance and is doomed to extinction.
Although Fukuzawa may be classical, he certainly is far from doomed and I would be way more worried about those that dare stand against him. Anime sometimes has to pull some pretty convoluted tricks to make swords seem like a viable weapon against modern artillery but not in this case. Fukuzawa makes it look easy and deadly.
Any of the Touken Ranbu Swords
Is it cheating that these handsome men ARE actually swords. Like literally the spirits of famous weapons personified. Somehow that seems kind of unfair.
You know what else is unfair? They have all been designed to be the perfect representation of what people who happen to be attracted to men enjoy drooling at. Not only are all of these boys very skilled swordsmen and swords, but they are all super easy on the eyes.
My favourite iteration of Touken Ranbu is Hanamaru, because it is way more fun. I have no clue why people don’t love this show, it’s adorable. In any case, the entire cast makes my list today!
Ryuuko Matoi from Kill la Kill
About time we got another lady in here and who better than Ryuuko. I absolutely love how Trigger animates movement. Especially when they go way overboard with it. Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill are probably the best examples of what I’m talking about.
But Kill la Kill has more sword fights. Or at least giant scissor fights but I think that counts. I was considering Utena for this spot, and she certainly is a wonderful lady and swordsman, but the sheer exhilaration of watching Ryuuko bounce around the screen smashing that blade into her enemies is simply unbeatable.
Ryuuko is possibly one of the funnest swordswomen to watch and that’s why she’s here. And I guess she ain’t that hard to watch either while you’re at it.
Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin
I know that Kenshin has fallen from grace and I’m not here to argue that part. However, Rurouni Kenshin is one of the earliest anime I watched and it holds a special place in my heart that I can’t quite shake. And Kenshin himself was the embodiment of anime swordsmen for me. In fact, he still is.
Part of it has to do with the historical setting. I quite like the samurai aesthetic. But it’s also simply that I grew up with this image of an anime character wielding a sword and to me, it remains the greatest.
Because of the character’s history and background, the sword Kenshin carries is more than a mere weapon. It’s a part of him, a representation of his soul. And through 95 episodes, a few movies and some devastating and shatteringly beautiful OVAs, that sword has gone through it all. And I was right there alongside. So as far as anime swordsmen go, Kenshin is still my no 1.
You know, it really wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just five. I mentioned Utena but there’s also Saber or Olivier Armstrong who are amazing with a sword. I’m not sure that thing Guts lugs around in Berserk counts as a sword but he is pretty impressive with it. And there are tons of popular shonen I haven’t watched that have great swordsmen.
Do you happen to have a favourite? I know it’s a real niche sort of preference but once I started thinking about it, I had a great time remembering all sorts of exciting combats and I think you will as well.