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 Like some outdated relic that stands no chance and is doomed to extinction.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!

by Lumnili 

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.

27 thoughts

  1. Saber from Fate will always be my favorite. Also, shout out to Tsubasa Kazanari from Symphogear, whose sword can turn into a motorcycle or grow to the size of a bus. Who wouldn’t want that?

  2. I love Kenshin and still do, though I think you already knew that. Whatever sins the author committed, well, as they say, once something is published it doesn’t belong to the author anymore…it belongs to everyone.

    As for some of my other favorite swordsmen and women (and I’m glad you said “favorite” because trying to pick a “best” list would be impossible), I’d have to start with Mai Kawasumi from Kanon, who’s a longtime favorite character of mine anyway, sword or not. On the guys’ side, there was Van Fanel from Escaflowne and Jubei Kibagami from Ninja Scroll. And I just realized that except for Kanon those are all 90s anime too, Kenshin included. Hmmm.

    Funny thing that also occurred to me as I was thinking about this…there are a surprising number of sword-wielding magical girls out there. Not a weapon and genre you normally associate with each other, but just off the top of my head I was able to think of a good six or seven at least. Maybe that’s a future list topic for you.

    1. I’m also a proponent of death of the author.
      I never thought of Magical Girls and Swords. I mean Utena aside. Interesting. And I just realized I forgot Lady Oscar and now I feel bad.

  3. KEN-SHIN! Gotta love Kenshin! 😀

    I also really like Nanashi from Sword of the Stranger. He only draws his sword during the climax, but it is amazing sword-fighting animation, especially his fight with Luo-Lang.

    1. ohhh that reminds me, although I haven’t watched it Dororo always looked like Sword of the Stranger to me. I bet it also has some great sword fighting scenes.

  4. Zoro from One Piece is a standard answer but I recently have taken a shine to him again in the recent One Piece Arc. I also like Mihawk and swordsman in general from One Piece. Kamina used a sword once so he is amazing as well!

    Oliver Mira Armstrong also uses a sword and really like her!

    Frog from Chrono Trigger would be my favourite game one.. but it has anime cutscenes on PS1 so maybe he counts still.

    Great list though! I prefer Nui over Ryouko.. but well that’s because I’m me! You can probably tell why xD. I am happy you did not put Kirito on the first five.. I really don’t like him. ..

    1. Wait does Nui use a sword? I remember her arms changing into blades but that was only for the final battle. I should rewatch Kill la Kill

  5. Hanamaru is underappreciated in the Anglosphere because it’s so niche. I don’t think a lot of people outside Japan, including me, would know much about Japanese swords if it didn’t exist…(Is it cheating to use the entire cast, though…?)

    Touken Ranbu aside, Assassin from Unlimited Blade Works, with that sword (ootachi) about as long as he is, is still cool after several years (although who am I to talk? I only watched UBW earlier this year…) It’s a shame he doesn’t get much spotlight in the Heaven’s Feel movies, which I watched 2/3 of a few days back.

    1. Was the game out when then animation got international distribution? Obviously I mean was it out internationally. That’s pretty much the only place fans would have gotten familiar with the swords, unless they happen to be JP history buffs.

    1. Ufotable also animated Touken Ranbu. They have a thing for swords. Actually Demon Slayer also has tons of pretty impressive swordsmen.

        1. I managed to get a few till the end of the year but heck, if you got some to spare I sure ain’t saying no! Thank You Senpai!!!!

  6. There are two favorites that spring to mind for me😊 One male, one female: Saya Kisaragi from Blood c, she just looked seriously cool even though the show itself wasn’t the best I’ve seen.
    The other is Kirito from Sword Art Online, who simply makes every swordfight look awesome! 😀😀

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